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Private Hospitals Unused, Greek Public Hospitals Handling Pandemic

ATHENS – With private hospitals reserved for the rich and those with private insurance largely going unused during a third wave of COVID-19 in Greece, the New Democracy government said public hospitals can withstand the pressure.

Despite public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICU’s) nearing capacity with people on ventilators, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis hasn’t, as vowed, moved to commandeer private hospitals or private doctors reluctant to help. 

Despite that, government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni said that the public health system, beleaguered by an increase in patient numbers, “will withstand the pressure” from the pandemic, reported Kathimerini.

She admitted the cases had been spiraling during a third lockdown but offered no reason why private facilities weren’t being used more while saing that, “We await to see if the increase in the positivity (rate) is circumstantial or if there are additional (reasons) to be concerned.”

But the government’s advisory panel of doctors and scientists already has gone past concern to worry and there was no word from the government on how its appeal – not order – to private hospitals and doctors was working out.

She said that despite the pandemic fatigue, the measures imposed by the government to stem the spread of the virus “have paid off,” contradicting the reports of increasing deaths and people on ventilators and resistance to the lockdown and growing fatigue about health restrictions.

The major opposition SYRIZA accused the government of failing to effectively mobilize the private sector behind efforts to relieve pressure on public hospitals from mounting COVID-19 admissions and intubations.

Speaking to SKAI TV, the leftist party’s spokesman, Nasos Iliopoulos, said the government’s reach out to recruit private doctors and medical centers had failed, with little response and that, “some of the units being used right now from the private sector are not suitable.”

Iliopoulos noted that one private clinic agreed to take in COVID-19 patients but didn’t have specialists to deal with them, requiring doctors to be moved there from a public hospital, leaving that understaffed.

He also said the government wasted time during the first wave of the pandemic last spring and over the summer to better organize and bolster the public health system that suffered budget cuts when SYRIZA was in power.

He said that, according to the Hellenic Thoracic Society, “if primary healthcare had been working properly, eight out of 10 coronavirus cases would never reach hospital,” too late now to deal with that.

Greece’s infection rate is still high, with another 1,533 cases on March 16, likely heald down because of fewer tests while there were 605 people in public hospital ICU’s, the highest for the year.

The number of cases could double on March 17, belying her optimistic spin on the situation, at the same time laboratory tests conducted by the National Network of Sewage Epidemiology in urban wastewater from March 8-14 showed a huge jump in he viral load.

The samples were collected in the greater Athens area, as well as in the cities of Thessaloniki, Larisa, Volos, Iraklio, Chania, Rethymno, Agios Nikolaos and Patra, the newspaper said.

The data also showed, according to the report, the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in raw sewage from the Attica basin shot up 87 percent. The biggest increase was recorded in Chania on Crete where the viral load was up by 1000 percent, showing how serious the situation really is.

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