ATHENS – A former health minister for SYRIZA was ejected from the party after accusing the rival New Democracy government of murder in the deaths of thousands of people among nearly 20,00 from COVID-19.
Panagiotis Kouroublis was booted by party leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras who had been constantly accusing the government of failures in dealing with the pandemic after he had been blamed over his former government’s response to July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 102 people.
Kouroublis said that the government had “murdered thousands of people,” referring to a report there were high numbers of fatalities of people on ventilators who weren’t being treated in public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs.)
That was co-authored by Dr. Sotiris Tsiodras, head of infectious diseases at the National Public Health Organization and a former spokesman for the government’s advisory panel of doctors on scientists on the pandemic.
“It causes great sorrow to a scientist but also to ordinary citizens that an older scientific analysis is used in a political confrontation,” he said after the report, done with Theodoros Lytras, Professor of Public Health at the European University of Cyprus, sparked a furor.
The work also noted regional disparities in health care with those not in the capital or surrounding areas having a greater chance of hospitalization or death, noting inequities.
Kouroblis’ remarks drew instant condemnation from New Democracy Members of Parliament as well as from his own party as he crossed a line even they wouldn’t broach.
SYRIZA’s parliamentary representative, Panos Skourletis, also criticized his colleage while Parliament Speaker Constantine Tassoulas censured Kouroublis for anti-parliamentary behavior, underlining that the claims of “murder” were among most disgusting and vulgar things uttered in parliament.
For that, Kouroublis will lose 25 percent of his pay but can remain in the Parliament, although not with SYRIZA and Tsipras sent a letter to Tassoulas formally removing the former minister from the party.
As a result of the censure, the MP loses a quarter of his pay.
Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said that Prime Minister Kyriakios Mitsotakis did not know about the study beforehand, and called on main opposition SYRIZA not to use scientific research for partisan gain.
Oikonomou said that the study “reiterates well-known findings of increased mortality when the health system is under pressure but also weaknesses in certain areas of the country,” said Kathimerini.
He noted that Mitsotakis said the National Health System needs restructuring but his government hasn’t moved to do it, other than doubling the number of ICU units and beds, with the help of philantropists and and the Diasproa.
Oikononou said that, “The intubation of patients outside the ICU is done out of necessity in order to provide them with the best possible care until it is possible to transport them to the intensive care unit,” when they’re available.
But he didn’t mention that the government isn’t recruiting private clinics reserved for the wealthy and those with sufficient health insurance to go there, leaving public hospital patients in hallways and makeshift wards.