Tough changes for Greece’s healthcare

by Vassilis Ragoussis on March 28, 2014

My name is Vassilis Ragoussis, I am English but both my parents are from Greece. I regularly visit my family who are there. As I am of Greek origin, I thought it would be appropriate for me to write about the health status of ‘my people’.

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Greece’s population in 2007 was estimated to be about 10 million with a very low growth rate of 0.16%. It also has one of the highest life expectancies amongst OECD, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Mediterranean diet and culture was seen as a paradise, and tourists would flock to experience this during their holidays. Nevertheless, the picture is different now, as there have been huge economic changes in the country, resulting in a blow for healthcare.


The Greek government has imposed severe modifications. The European Commission, the European Central bank, and the International monetary Fund form The Trioka. The Trioka enforced these modifications as huge cuts to government expenditure were made in return for two bailout packages with the total value of 240 billion euros. They forced a 6 per cent cap on health spending resulting in the Greek public hospital budget being cut by 25 per cent between 2009 and 2011. This has left a devastating amount of people, an estimated one million, without access to healthcare.


Unfortunately health insurance is linked directly with employment, and unemployment in the country has more than tripled since 2008, with it being 24.3 percent in 2012. Those who do not have a job are not insured and ignored by the health system.  For example, if one is unemployed and diagnosed with a disease, such as cancer, he/she will not be able to access chemotherapy or even simple drugs needed.

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In rural areas, the shortages of medicine and equipment are more prevalent. Reduced healthcare has shown that many programs have not been getting the attention and support necessary. Street programs for drug users have deteriorated, with one-third of them being closed down. With a reduction in supplies such as syringes and condoms, it is no wonder that there has been an increase in HIV infections. Other diseases such as malaria have started to prevail and the government can no longer afford mosquito-spraying programs.

Other areas of health have also taken a turn for the worst. To name a few, infant mortality, mental health problems, and suicide rates have all increased respectively.

From a wider perspective, as a result of the clear deterioration of social healthcare, child poverty has in turn increased. Children are malnourished and are not receiving proper healthcare.

In addition, the healthcare that is available has become more expensive. Fees for prescriptions have been introduced and charges for outpatient visits have increased by 40 percent. Consequentially, this can mean tens of thousands of euros for patients, money that they simply may not have. Patients and those suffering from disease continue to suffer in silence.

If the government cuts an additional 2 billion euros in health spending, more problems could arise. As time passes these statistics will only increase and become more and more alarming.








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