The impact of refugees on the European healthcare system


Dimtris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration. EC Audiovisual Services, 25/01/2017.

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Stavroula Papaeleftheriou. The writer is a fifth year medical student at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy Gr. T. Popa, in Iasi, Romania. She is also affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Diaspora was and will always remain a big part of Global History, but over the past years the topic of refugees has been the main focus in the media, where millions of people have been crossing the ocean to get to Greece and Italy in order to be part of the European Union.

On the other hand, we could recall the days when the financial crisis was influencing severely the Greek economy and which by its turn had an intense impact on the Greek health system, failing to cover basic medical needs in emergencies and cases of chronic pathologies that were affecting the refugees who were coming to Greece. The lack of medical supplies and trained personnel was partially covered by the aid of Non-Governmental Organizations.

The NGO created over the past years camps with small clinics in order to help these people on their physical and psychical health.  From the refugees who passed through the island of Lesvos, the doctor volunteers were acknowledge the existence that the majority of them suffered from sunburns and blisters due to the hundreds of kilometers they walked daily in order to pass the borders; another part were injured with deep burns on body locations highly predisposed to infections, and a smaller percentage were afflicted with rheumatologic and orthopedic pathologies due to war injuries.

Carrying on, we should mention that these people were waiting days, weeks sometimes even months in order to receive some legal documents which will allow them to be part of the community; all this delay had a great influence on their psychological behavior.

Although, despite the effort of the NGOs volunteers, language was the main barrier of communication, where in most of the cases the confidentiality between patient and doctor was broken and misleading information were present.

In addition, most of the refugees were lacking of their medical instructions and treatment due to the fact that they were forced to leave fast from their countries in order to protect their families and themselves.

All in all, we would like to suggest that a health screening program amongst the refugees would be beneficial in order to diagnose the pathologies that some of them are suffering from and provide them a correct treatment.

In order to avoid future complaints of discrimination from locals and migrants, a proper educative program should be provided to schools and media where it will be explained the definition of a refugee and that we should all understand that these people left their life back not by choice and during their “marathon” got injured and they need to be treated.

We were raised with the idea that we should stop the problem from its source, but as it seems in that case a civilized discussion and the suggestion of a solution at the war’s nucleus seem impossible; for that we should help the refugees to dream of a peaceful future.

About the author

Originally coming from the greek island, of Lesbos. Due to personal reasons, she decided to migrate to Romania to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor. The past years she is volunteering on different Societies of her university, as SSMI (Medical Student Society of Iasi), IMJS (International Medical Student Society). She had the chance to volunteer with “Medicine de Monde”, the past year at their refugee camp in Lesvos.

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