By Vasilis Papoutsis
LOS ANGELES, CA – Elpis Hospital Managing Director Dr. Theodore Giannaros received a warm welcome from the Greek-American community of Los Angeles at his recent visit to raise money for much needed equipment for the hospital.
The visit was organized by the American Hellenic Council and took place at the Maniatakos Hall at the St. Sophia Cathedral, which sponsored the event and graciously offered the hall and food. The Hellenic Library and the Hellenic University Club were some of the other sponsors. Dr. Giannaros who has seen the hospital’s budget cut as much as 40 percent during Greece’s debilitating crisis, that left the hospital in dire need of personal and equipment. The hospital, which is one of the oldest in Greece, has maintained its commitment to treat the uninsured whose numbers have skyrocketed since the crisis. When people lose their jobs they no longer have access to the national health system, and the need for treatment has risen drastically.
As Dr. Giannaros said in his opening remarks, ”the crisis in not only an economic crisis, it is a humanitarian crisis.” He was leading an alliance of six hospitals committed to treating the uninsured but ”unfortunately I am the only one left from that alliance.”
Elpis has been in operation for more than 170 years and has nurtured some of the giants of Greek medicine such as Makkas, Magginas, and Geroulanos. Elpis has always been committed to the treatment of all people rich or poor, political refugees and the uninsured.
Giannaros embraces the same commitment and told TNH that ”people are not numbers. They have feelings and they have the right to receive health care. I will do anything to save a patient’s life.” Another major problem is the shortage of personal in all areas especially doctors. He said that there are enough volunteers who can step in to help but ”unfortunately the law does not allow volunteers to help at the hospitals. I have advocated for adjustment of the current law but there is a lot of talk and no action.” Giannaros also spoke about the high number of suicides. They estimate that 10,000 Greeks have lost their lives since the start of the crisis, ”a small town gone” as he said. Sadly he lost his own son due to suicide, and that makes his fight even more personal and his determination even greater. When he realized that the crisis will be a prolonged one he began asking for help outside of Greece through friends who lived in Germany and Austria. One of them founded the organization ”Griechenlandhilfe” that means ”Help for Greece” and they ship pharmaceuticals to Elpis twice a month. Now the help is so big ”that we ship out to 20 other hospitals in Greece among them the SOS Villages and institutions for special needs in Ioannina and Patra.” More information is available at griechenlandhilfe.at.
The effort in Los Angeles was a great success that exceeded expectations. Father John Bakas in his welcoming remarks made a passionate plea for help, ”as the motherland has helped all of us at various times,” and he was the first one to offer his contribution as he challenged others to do the same. Aris Anagnos donated $25,000 in matching funds for a total of $75,000. Ironically, Dr. Giannaros and 58 other hospital directors were fired by the SYRIZA government while he was still here, a sign that some things in Greece do not change. Strangely enough, the position of a hospital director in Greece is a political appointment, and appointees have various backgrounds that often are not directly connected with the business of running a hospital. Despite the loss of the beloved director, the money will still be used to buy an ultrasound machine for diagnostics and an eye laser surgery system. The hope is that this effort will continue as the needs in Greek hospitals present a huge challenge.