THESSALONIKI — The National Health System (NHS) will withstand the pressure of high hospitalization rates in the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Saturday from the Ippokratio General Hospital of Thessaloniki, adding that Greek society is much obliged to all doctors and nursing staff.
Speaking with staff at the largest medical facility in the northern capital, Mitsotakis said, "The NHS came under pressure and still is, but it has withstood it and will continue to do so. We are deeply obliged, and the entire Greek society has great respect for the medical and nursing staff."
Mitsotakis asserted that "the crisis will be overcome, and when we do so, the NHS will be much stronger in terms of equipment and staffing" and a new system will be built once the pandemic is over.
During his visit, which included a tour of new intensive care units (ICUs), the prime minister said he was aware that the system was stretched to the limits. "We are not here to beautify any situation," he noted, "we are here to convey our support to the entire staff of NHS, especially here in Thessaloniki and northern Greece, which is being put to the test- to get a personal picture of the situation and to speak the language of truth and optimism."
Thanks to the donation by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the hospital will get 30 new ICUs and 8 High-Dependency Units by February 26, according to the schedule, he said. Ippokratio currently has 25 ICUs.
Mitsotakis also spoke of the necessity for the public to embrace the idea of being vaccinated, once the vaccine is available in January. "The vaccination will be provided by the state for free, it will not be obligatory, but we are counting on our fellow citizens' common sense and on the advice of doctors to encourage as many as possible to go ahead with it in January, when the widespread vaccination program will begin," he stressed.
Along with the great effort expended by doctors and nursing staff, citizens must also exhibit a responsible stance and observe the health measures. "We are not asking for a lot: just to follow the directions of the specialists and limit movement in and out of homes as much as possible," the premier added.
The prime minister also paid a visit to Pylea, a southeast suburb of Thessaloniki, and the northern Greece operations room of EKAV, the national ambulance service, which opened 10 days ago after a major overhaul. Staff are able to see in real time all ICUs in Greece and the availability of beds, making transfers to hospitals safe and fast, he said. Mitsotakis spoke through the service's wireless system to all crews on duty in Athens, Larissa, Kavala, Ioannina (Yannena) and Thessaloniki, and thanked them for their services.
He told EKAV crews that all of Greece functions as a single health district in times of crisis. "We are all one team. […] Essentially, in a pandemic crisis, the entire country is a single health district, therefore all transfers of patients – whether by ambulance or even by airlift – play a critical role when taking advantage of all options in the NHS. Your role is crucial, and we have you in our hearts, and thank you greatly."
Mitsotakis was accompanied to Thessaloniki by Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias, Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister and government spokesman Stelios Petsas, and Health Ministry Secretary General Ioannis Kotsiopoulos, as well as EKAV President Nikos Papaefstathiou, who introduced the PM to the EKAV crews by wireless.