ATHENS – Greece's New Democracy government, reluctant to do so, has now said it will use private clinics to help deal with the threat of public hospitals being overwhelmed by critical COVID-19 cases.
Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and ventilators are running out fast after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis initially said the health sector could deal with the second wave of the Coronavirus.
The Health Ministry said the the private clinics wouldn't take COVID-19 cases but be used to relieve an overload on public hospitals to free up their capacity as the cases keep rising.
The first private clinics who will be required to take hospital cases, paid by the state, would be in Athens because of the pressure building on National Health System (ESY) facilities although ICU units had been doubled during the eight-month long pandemic.
The average number of COVID-19 cases admitted to hospitals was about 350 per day and jumped 200 percent in the 10 days leading up to Nov. 15, while the numbers of those needing ventilators is soaring with deaths and cases jumping.
Health officials said authorities will direct non-COVID-19 cases to private clinics, said Kathimerini, after an agreement was made with them by the government and that they are ready to accept patients almost immediately.
Deputy Health Minister Vassilis Kontozamanis did not rule out the possibility of recruiting private doctors, said the newspaper, although the clinics and private doctors are used mostly by people with money and means.
Deputy Minister for Civil Protection Nikos Hardalias said, “The best bet for everyone is the restriction of movement,” calling on people to stay home during a second lockdown and follow health measures when out for permissible missions.
Vana Papaevangelou, a Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Athens University and a member of the government's scientific advisory committee, told the paper that, “It seems that we are probably at the peak of this second wave.”
She added that because of the large dispersion, hospitalizations and intubated patients will remain at high levels.
“Within the next seven to 10 days, a reduction in imports is expected and one to two weeks later a reduction in intubation is expected,” she said.
Of 161 COVID-19 ICUs serving Thessaloniki, only 11 were available at one point, raising the possibility of having to fly patients to Athens area hospitals although those were filling fast there too.