“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 Milestones

Featured Stings

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

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

Lebanon: UN rights office calls for de-escalation of protest violence

Here’s how companies can make sure they are blockchain-ready

Why the financial scandals multiply?

JADE Generations Club: Connecting perspectives, changing Europe.

At global health forum, UN officials call for strong, people-focused health systems

To entrepreneurship and beyond!

My ‘’cultural’’ contacts with China

‘We are nowhere closer’ to Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, than a year ago, Security Council hears

‘Rare but devastating’ tsunamis underscore need for better preparation, UN chief urges on World Day

‘Regional security and integration’ in Central Africa under threat, Security Council warned

‘Spectre of poverty’ hangs over tribes and indigenous groups: UN labour agency

Recovery and Resilience Facility: Romania submits official recovery and resilience plan

Artificial intelligence: Commission takes forward its work on ethics guidelines

Industrial policy: recommendations to support Europe’s leadership in six strategic business areas

The ocean is teeming with microplastic – a million times more than we thought, suggests new research

Can Obama attract Iran close to the US sphere of influence?

Bring killers of journalists to justice: UN agency seeks media partners for new campaign

Regulate social media platforms to defend democracy, MEPs say

Canada has the most comprehensive and elaborate migration system, but some challenges remain

G20 LIVE: World Leaders in Turkey for G20 Summit. Global Economy will be discussed in Antalya

These countries are the most optimistic about economic recovery from the pandemic

Last-chance Commission: Why Juncker promised investments of €300 billion?

COP25: Developing nation’s strike hard

Ireland’s planning to make its Emerald Isle even greener

Peer-to-peer learning: a way to develop medical students’ trainings

ISIL continues to pose a ‘serious challenge’ worldwide – UN counter-terror chief

Biodiversity: MEPs demand binding targets to protect wildlife and people

Leaders need hard data to make the hard decisions about sustainability

Nicaragua ‘crisis’ still cause for concern amid murder, torture allegations: Bachelet

Trump: Hostile to Europe, voids Tillerson’s “ironclad” ally pledge

Businesses, governments and consumers to implement a more climate-friendly approach to #BeatPlasticPollution on World Environment Day 2018

Right2Water initiative: Is the Commission ready to listen to citizens?

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate deal is bad for US business. Here’s why.

3 natural mysteries that could be explained by quantum physics

The winds of change: 5 charts on the future of offshore power

Millions of Bangladeshi children at risk from climate crisis, warns UNICEF

COVID-19 and the importance of scientific credibility in decreasing the number of cases

Antitrust: Commission opens investigation into possible anti-competitive conduct of Amazon

Plastic is a global problem. It’s also a global opportunity

NASA is recruiting new astronauts – this is what it takes to apply

Why it’s time to celebrate migrants

Fighting forest fires in Europe – how it works

The Pegasus Project awarded the 2021 Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism

Detecting online child sexual abuse requires strong safeguards

Sexual reproductive health rights SRHR and ending HIV: can one be achieved without the other?

Greenhouse gas emissions have already peaked in 30 major cities

Transparency, EU values, and pluralism: new rules for European political parties

Central Asia bloc has important role in ‘peace, stability and prosperity’ beyond region, says Deputy UN chief

Greater transparency, fairer prices for medicines ‘a global human rights issue’, says UN health agency

It’s time to end our ‘separate but unequal’ approach to mental health

How smart tech helps cities fight terrorism and crime

EU and Mercosur reach agreement on trade

UN committed to helping Haiti build better future, says Guterres, marking 10-year anniversary of devastating earthquake

Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to O2 CZ, CETIN and T-Mobile CZ for their network sharing agreement

5 things to know about the exploding world of pro gaming

World Food Programme accesses Yemeni frontline district for first time since conflict began

UN chief calls for ‘immediate end’ to escalation of fighting in southwestern Syria, as thousands are displaced

The world’s food waste problem is bigger than we thought – here’s what we can do about it

A Sting Exclusive: “Seize the opportunity offered by Africa’s continental free trade area”, written by the Director General of UNIDO

More Stings?

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

%d bloggers like this: