Greek healthcare system reaching its limits

Athens: The Greek public healthcare system is reaching its limits in the ongoing battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, as the numbers of new cases and hospitalisations were constantly increasing, officials and doctors warned.

The Greek government took more steps this week to strengthen the healthcare system with the mobilisation of private hospitals and clinics in the treatment of patients, reports Xinhua news agency.

If you take into account that a middle-sized hospital in our country has about 200 beds, you will see that in the past few days almost all beds fill up in each emergency shift, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias told the media.

Until two weeks ago, the average daily admissions were almost half.

Occupancy at intensive care units (ICUs) and regular wards for Covid-19 patients increases lately at alarming levels, officials and experts said.

Although the country is in a lockdown since November 7, 2020, the mutated Covid-19 strains which are more contagious than the initial strain and quarantine fatigue have led to an alarming situation, they explained.

In order to control the further spread of the virus, officials announced on Friday that the lockdown will be further extended to March 29 and the few schools which had remained open will also go back to online learning for the next two weeks.

The situation is bleak, two doctors at public hospitals told Xinhua, suggesting additional measures to boost defence.

In the past few months, a few steps have been taken to increase the number of available beds. However, the total across the country, which stands at about 1,500 beds (for Covid-19 patients in ICUs), is not enough, Panagiotis Papanikolaou, general secretary of the Federation of Hospital Doctors of Greece, told Xinhua.

For Papanikolaou, the mobilisation of private hospitals and clinics so far is a drop of water in the ocean and more support is needed.

Moreover, the federation has called for immediate hiring of more doctors and nurses.

We want to get support at last by more doctors, nurses and other personnel. Those of us who are currently in the system are not enough to face the Covid-19 tsunami, Despoina Tosonidou, a radiologist at Asklepieio Voulas hospital in the southern suburbs of Athens, told Xinhua.

Every day there are a few dozen patients who are intubated and are not treated inside ICUs. Beds in wards for Covid-19 patients in hospitals are constantly full, the doctor added.

Greece has so far reported more than 217,000 coronavirus cases and 6,986 deaths.