“Access denied”: the Greek health system under pressure

Vytenis Andriukaitis

Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner responsible for Health and Food Safety. © European Union , 2016 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Lieven Creemers.

Exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Vassiliki Samartzi, a third year medical student at University of Patras, Greece and Mr Nikolaos Karvelas, first year medical student at University of Athens, Greece. Both students are affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA).

Access to healthcare, one of the core human rights, nowadays is not taken for granted in Greece. The cause: two consecutive crises, that, in a mere six years’ time, have managed to wreck the health system, leaving it unable to sustain itself, the citizens, and the waves of refugees in need.

The cause of this severe degradation was the austerity policies, proposed as a solution to the financial crisis. As recent socioeconomic researches have pointed out, health sector has been the target of constant costcutting policies, which deeply wound the quality of the services provided. As part of these reforms, an introduction of user fees to access healthcare and reductions in coverage have been the ones that mostly elevated inequalities, since access to healthcare became more and more determined by employment, whereas the harsh reality was, and still is, high unemployment rates and loss of income. Subsequently, vulnerable groups have been marginalized, and sometimes even excluded from public healthcare.

Therefore, when the unexpected migration crisis broke out, the already unstable health system suffered a final blow. At a time in which the refugee crisis is sharper than ever, the Greek health system and public infrastructure cannot meet the requirements that dictate our times. More than one million people have tried to reach Europe in 2015, and over 200 000 people in 2016. In Greece, detention areas and hotspots are crowded and hosting refugees residing in appalling hygiene conditions. The data is constantly changing and from March 20, the date of implementation of the EUTurkey agreement, refugees arriving in Greek islands are sent in closed detention centers. It is obvious that there is no specific provision. According to information of Doctors without Borders, “prisoners” in some centers have limited access to water and shelter, sanitary facilities are not properly maintained and food distribution takes place at irregular intervals. Many nongovernmental organizations are trying to offer help, but the refugees’ access to health is limited because the state has not created the necessary infrastructure to help those people, who have to walk long distances at times to gain access to basic services. Thus, the state machine is replaced by individuals who are trying in despair to offer help without any planning.

Unfortunately, awareness on this healthcare crisis is limited, especially concerning our target group, medical students. As the policies of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) on Access to healthcare state, it is our obligation and mission to promote universal health coverage to everyone, undocumented persons included. Efforts have been made from the part of our organization, Hellenic Medical Students’ International Committee (HelMSIC) to develop the medical students’ sensitivity on the subject, through projects, such as project “Chiron” in cooperation with the Medecins du Monde. Students have the chance to experience for themselves, at the open polyclinics of the MdM, how limited access to health sources affects the daily lives of a huge proportion of the population, be it refugees or uninsured locals.

Now addressing the European citizens as eyewitnesses of the inhumane state of the Greek healthcare system, our aim is double: not only to demonstrate how Greece should act as a counterexample regarding the right to health, but also to promote the role of the medical students as defenders of this particular right. Our vision is that, in the future, these students will take effective action as doctors against inequality, and restore healthcare to what it should be: open to every human in need.

About the authors

Vassiliki_Samartzi

Mrs Vasiliki Samartzi is a third year medical student from the University of Patras, Greece. During her last two years of her studies, she has been actively engaged to HelMSIC on a national scale, firstly as a National Officer on Human Rights and now as a National Project Director.

Nikolas_Karvelas

Mr Nikolaos Karvelas is a first year medical student, in the University of Athens, Greece. HelMSIC has been one of his main occupations during his studies, especially the Human Rights sector, so he decided to dedicate himself to them by becoming National Officer on Human Rights and Peace.

References

  1. https://www.msf.gr/magazine/ekklisitongiatronhorissynoragiaamesoanoigmatonhotspot  (text only in Greek)
  2. Should you need any further info on this project, please contact projects@helmsic.gr

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Gaza blockade causes ‘near ten-fold increase’ in food dependency, says UN agency

The West cannot ignore Russia; dazed Germany sitting on the fence

A shipping industry leader explains how to keep supply chains moving amid a pandemic

EU Council approves visa-free travel for Ukraine and cement ties with Kiev

COP21 Breaking News_12 December: 195 countries adopt the First Universal Climate Agreement

10 ways regulators need to change in 2020

Eurozone: Subdued inflation can lead to more recession

Why India is ready to become a supercomputer power

Importance of Mental Health and keeping it together in a Pandemic 

New UN Global Climate report ‘another strong wake-up call’ over global warming: Guterres

It ain’t over until Google says it’s over

A junk food diet can impair your brain, study finds

Can Argentina’s new president save the country’s economy?

The time for cities to get smart is now

It’s ‘time for concrete action’ says UN chief, welcoming inter-Korean agreement

Cambodia’s schools are the new frontline in the battle against climate change

European Commission increases support for the EU’s beekeeping sector

2014 budget: The EU may prove unable to agree on own resources

“Leaked” TTIP document breaks post 8th negotiations round silence and opens door to critics

Ukraine turns again to the EU for more money

Over $39 million earmarked by UN-backed fund to combat effects of climate change in Nepal

Trump goes ahead with plan to undo globalization; targets China and EU

COVID-19 is likely to increase youth unemployment in Africa, this is how business can mitigate the damage

Youth2030: UN chief launches bold new strategy for young people ‘to lead’

Health privatization to blame for health inequality or poor investment in public health?

UN Security Council ‘utterly failed’ Syrian detainees; a victim voices her plea to ‘end impunity and stop this horror’

Greece to stay in the euro area but the cost to its people remains elusive

Workplace bullies could now go to jail in South Korea

In Afghanistan, attacks against schools have tripled in one year

Scientists just got closer to making nuclear fusion work

Philanthropy is at a turning point. Here are 6 ways it could go

Sweden well ahead in digital transformation yet has more to do

Mental health of health professionals: the alter ego

India: step up reform efforts to increase quality jobs and incomes

Does Draghi have another ace up his sleeve given his Quantitative Easing failure?

IMF launches a new offensive against Germany

Quicker freezing and confiscation of criminal assets in the EU

rescEU: EU establishes initial firefighting fleet for next forest fire season

The European Sting @ Mobile World Congress 2014, Creating What’s Next for the World. Can EU Policy follow?

Four things the UN chief wants world leaders to know, at key COP24 climate conference opening

Forward Agenda: What can we expect from 2019?

Health should be central to the conversation around climate change

Assembly of European Regions @ European Business Summit 2014: The European regions on the path to recovery

US must abide by humanitarian refugee accords: UN refugee agency

Union of Equality: The Commission presents its first-ever strategy on LGBTIQ equality in the EU

Eurobarometer survey: Majority of EU citizens positive about international trade

LGBTIQ people have been hit hard by COVID-19. Here’s how we can provide support

Cyclone Fani hits India, UN moves to protect vulnerable refugees in Bangladesh

Millions of young lives at risk due to humanitarian funding shortfall: UNICEF

A skills gap is jeopardizing efforts to end energy poverty

Main results of EU-Japan summit: Tokyo, 17/07/2018

Trade, entrepreneurship and the future of ASEAN’s economy

20th EU-China Summit in Beijing, 16/07/2018

VAT Gap: EU countries lost €137 billion in VAT revenues in 2017

Employment MEPs reach consensus with Commission on workers’ health and safety

New EU visa rules – Questions and Answers

How leaders can use ‘agile governance’ to drive tech and win trust

DR Congo: Electoral process advancing despite threat of armed groups, UN envoy tells Security Council

Greenpeace’s saints and sinners in the tech world

Pro-EU forces won a 70% triumph in the European elections

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s