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Politics

Health Minister Vows to Conscript Private Doctors for COVID-19 Fight

ATHENS – After almost all of Greece’s 3,000 private doctors refused his call for them to help battle a surging third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias repeated his warning he would conscript them.

He had given them 48 hours to respond but after he was largely ignored – on 45 agreed – he gave them yet another warning, saying he would recommend to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis they be forced to to help, without saying how.

With public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICU’s) at full capacity, Mitsotakis also hasn’t moved, as he promised, to commandeer private hospitals reserved for the rich and those who can afford private health insurance.

Greece – which lost thousands of doctors who left during a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis, desperately needs specialists in pathology, pulmonology, anesthesiology and general practitioners to deal with COVID-19.

The government said some 550 beds had been made available at private clinics for patients with COVID-19 and other illnesses to help free up beds for those in critical condition or with the Coronavirus.

Cases jumped during a slow-moving vaccination program that’s far behind schedule but which the government said was going as planned although only 1.34 million of the country’s population of 10.7 million has been inoculated.

Health officials said the benchmark of 70 percent, or about 7.49 million, need to be vaccinated to slow the pandemic as Greece plans to open to tourists on May 15 and is going to ease terms of the lockdown, risking another surge in a bid to get the economy going again.

Kikilias, an orthopedist, said another 1.5 million vaccinations would be given in April, aided by doses from the US’ firm Johnson & Johnson, although it wasn’t said how many people would have received the required two shots to be effective.

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