ATHENS – Greece's health care worker ranks have been depleted by unpaid suspensions of those refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 but new Health Care Minister Thanos Plevris said they'll be bolstered by recruits.
The forced leaves began Sept. 1 for those who won't be inoculated, most believing the shots aren't safe or effective or are part of a international conspiracy to alter their DNA and control their minds.
That has seen 5,500 health care and public hospital workers taken off the job another 1,000 at primary care centers, but the problem is more acute on islands where there are only a handful of doctors and health workers, said Kathierini.
On Naxos, the paper said the only two surgeons, one of two microbiologists, two of five lab technicians, two out of seven cleaners and five of 30 nurses have been suspended, while four of eight health care workers on Amorgos were suspended.
Plevris, who has no health care experience and is still reeling over Holocaust denial statements he made while defending his anti-Semitic father in a court case years earlier, said it will get better.
In response to a question in Parliament from major opposition SYRIZA lawmaker Andreas Xanthos, who was a health minister in the previous Leftist government, Plevris said, “There are certainly some dysfunctions – I want to be upfront – but those are manageable,” the paper reported he said.
“We consider that, as the days pass and personnel that get vaccinated resume their duties, and with the activation of three-month contracts (with private sector healthcare providers,) even these dysfunctions will be eliminated,” he added.
But the paper said there's still so much anxiety in the New Democracy government over the shortages that are happening as COVID and the dominant Delta Variant are rising that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis may ease up.
Under consideration, the report added, is that health care workers who have gotten a first shot but aren't fully inoculated with two shots of most required versions would be allowed to return, which has already happened in some cases.
The government's Eleftheria (Freedom) vaccination campaign has failed to persuade enough people to be fully inoculated to slow the pandemic, which requires some 70 percent of the population of 10.7 million.
Only about 56 percent have been fully vaccinated, however, and the campaign went into limbo during the summer as the government concentrated on opening the country to tourists and people were allowed to travel domestically.
The rate is only 49 percent for those 18-24 who are more and more being infected, especially with the super-contagious Delta Variant that is also putting more people in hospitals and Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and spreading.
In schools, which opened on Sept. 13, the rate is less than 25 percent for 12- to 17-year-olds and that group could be overwhelmed with the Coronavirus in the fall, as they aren't required to be inoculated and have the option of being tested twice weekly at the government's expense.
The government has offered that segment 50 gigabytes of free data for smartphones if they get the shot but there's been no report on how many are taking it up and being vaccinated.