The health system in Greece
The Greek health system rates on a scale from mediocre to
bad. There are unacceptable conditions in the hospitals: unbelievably
long queues in the waiting-rooms of the social security services
(IKA); and citizens treated "at two speeds" - the
rich carried in well-equipped ambulances, whilst the poor
die because ambulances don't come in time or are out of service.
Furthermore, if you need therapy or an operation abroad, you
can only obtain this by paying a huge sum to a consultant,
who has to give you the necessary certificate justifying your
expenses to the IKA for refunding. If you can't afford this
certificate, you remain in Greece.
A journey through an Athenian hospital
There are 33 hospitals in Attica (in the Athens area), of
which 18 are in Athens itself, with about 7,500 beds and a
staff of 21,000 people. The journalist Nana Daudaki, in "Ta
Néa" ("The News") of December 1990,
describes perfectly the situation in a state hospital:
"Patients lying in folding beds try to preserve their
dignity, whilst their disabled state and half-naked bodies
are transformed into a public performance for the people walking
amongst them. When there aren't enough folding beds, stretchers
are used, so that patients can no longer be carried anywhere.
Sometimes you see people lying on the floor. At the same time,
there are empty beds in other hospitals. Relatives and private
nurses join forces with the inadequate number of hospital
staff and work with them, creating further confusion, noise
and new loopholes for infectious illnesses. In one of the
biggest hospitals, Evangelismos, one single nurse has to take
care of 40 to 60 patients, and sometimes only one nurse is
responsible for four floors on night shift.
"If you want a home visit, you add your name to an endless
list." It's the same if you want to be operated on at
the General Hospital in Nikea (Piraeus): you still have to
wait six months perhaps, even when new surgeries have been
"Very expensive machines are constantly out of order
or work for only four or five hours a day. At the same time,
patients who are not already in hospital have to find for
themselves suitable means of transport to private diagnostic
centres, as the hospitals do not have their own ambulances.
So the expenses for examinations are doubled, first for the
expensive machines that don't work, then for the huge sums
paid by the social security services to the private centres.
"Within this lack of organisation there are also the
exploiters and the misfits; there is a waste of resources
of criminal dimensions; and there is thieving inside the hospitals
that belong to all of us."
A case was recently brought before the authorities concerning
a massacre of dogs carried out in the name of scientific progress.
Their howls, coming from the terrace of Ippokratio Hospital
in Athens, were heard by the whole neighbourhood. Members
of the Greek Anti-Hunting Initiative succeeded in taking photographs
of a primitive "surgery" for animal experiments
and of some of the dogs themselves that had been shut up in
a toilet and had survived the slaughter. The director of Ippokratio
declared that he knew nothing about all this, and the person
responsible, Professor Golematis, disappeared for some time.
The members of his team refused to reveal their names until
the police forced them to do so. They did not have any permission
to perform animal experiments; the dogs had been stolen; the
"surgery" was nothing more than a dirty hut. Nevertheless,
the police did nothing, and only certain newspapers made a
fuss about the episode. The surviving dogs could not be saved,
and the team members were not harried any longer by the Law.
But it is these people who will be the "paper doctors"
of tomorrow, and it is they who, together with their research,
will cooperate for the "welfare" of Greek hospitals
Hospitals in the provinces
Hospitals in the provinces are short of 4,250 doctors, and
the health centres lack 1,250. Moreover, there is an imbalance
in the distribution of supporting staff. Except for the town
of Salonika there are in Macedonia and Thrace 18 hospitals
with 57 surgical beds and 222 nurses (that is, 3.8 trained
nurses for every surgical bed). In Salonika itself there are
eight hospitals, with 50 surgical beds and 179 nurses (that
is, 3.5 trained nurses for every surgical bed.) However, we
know that five nurses are necessary for every bed.
There are 4,000 people working today in the eight hospitals
of Salonika, whereas, according to the International Health
Organisation, there should be 7,000, showing a 40% lack of
At the Ippokratio Hospital in Salonika, patients who need
a simple radiological examination must wait 10 days, because
the machines are old, and there are delays in the renewing
and servicing of parts.
In the 124 out-patient clinics that function by appointment,
patients are on the waiting list for at least two months.
Lack of medical and support staff and lack of modern machinery
cause obvious problems for the patients.
There are only seven or eight nurses to take care of all the
patients in the out-patient department of the Ahepa Hospital
when it is open - that is, seven or eight nurses take care
of 400 to 450 patients in the pathological, surgical and cardiological
The other side of the coin is that the availability of medical
services decreases because so much money is wasted in the
experimental laboratories of the Ahepa Hospital, where doctors
administer electric shocks to rats and induce strokes (encephalic
haemorrhages) in rabbits, renal failures in dogs and paraplegia
in rabbits by breaking their spines.
Nevertheless, experiments are carried out at the St Demetrios
Hospital, where strokes are induced in rabbits in order to
discover a new therapy, even though we already knew ten years
ago that the animal model is not valid, since strokes in man
are completely different - so we can clearly discern what
the aim of these experiments is!
One more point - in the hospital at Alexandrou-poli (near
Salonika), the meals provided for children are unacceptable
under the rules of the International Health Organisation,
and other patients also eat unhealthy foodstuffs
Litter from hospitals
Every week, the hospitals in Athens produce 35 tons of polluted
litter, which is left in the streets or burnt by primitive
methods in the centre of the city. The hospitals have not
created the necessary structures for getting rid of litter,
and the staff ignore the dangers of contamination and transport
litter by hand.
Garbage is thrown into places where passers-by can touch it,
so that it is a source of deadly danger. The harmful substances
in litter cause embarrassment to the Health Ministry, but
nothing has been done -the dimensions of the problem border
on actual criminal indifference.
One Greek in twenty is a carrier of hepatitis B, so that everyone
realises how important prevention is in limiting hepatitis
and cirrhosis: from next year, there will, in fact, be compulsory
vaccination for these diseases.
Fifty per cent of all injured people could be saved by first-aid
treatment, but they die during the journey to hospital. Professor
Roussos, director of the Intensive Therapy Unit at the Evangelismos
Hospital in Athens, declared recently that more than half
of those who die could be saved if there were an organised
system of immediate, urgent, pre-hospital medical attention
and intensive therapy.
On the other hand, at the very same hospital vivisectionists
waste money on animal experiments such as striking the heads
of rats with different weights in order to induce different
degrees of cranial and cerebral injuries: they then calculate
the level of the enzyme CK-BB. These useless experiments are
done solely in order to publish papers, since the results
are already known from clinical studies on humans.
Imagine how many people could be saved and cured if the money
used for animal experiments were put into organising hospitals
efficiently all over Greece, transporting patients in well-equipped
ambulances and informing people about preventative medicine!
Why do they experiment on animals? Who benefits? Who keeps
the practice going? Who looks after the well-being of the
Vivisectionists cannot be ignorant of the fact that money
which could help patients is being wasted on animal experiments,
thus ensuring commercial profits on the one hand and the continuing
non-solution of problems on the other. A river of money flows
into the maintenance of a huge edifice, the viability of which
depends on keeping patients uncured.
Illnesses and causes of death in Greece
The incidence of illness in Greece grows, despite the ever-increasing
expenses of health care, medicines, doctors, clinical examination
and specialised check-up centres.
|Deaths in Greece and their causes
|Coronary heart disease
|Bronchitis, emphysema, asthma
|Patients admitted into hospitals and their illnesses
|Coronary heart disease
|Bronchitis, emphysema, asthma
The present situation
Instead of focusing our attention and efforts on providing
a solution to health problems by prevention and by applying
what we already know about therapies, the vivisectionists
suggest research on animals for new therapies - and this notwithstanding
the fact that conditions for our laboratory animals are miserable
- stress, small dirty cages, isolation and an everyday use
of physical and psychological torture. Hundreds of millions
of animals all over the world are tortured and killed in the
name of science.
However, more and more doctors are coming to realise that
research on animals is useless, repetitive and enormously
wasteful of money. More reliable methods, without the use
of animals, are available which are more scientific and need
less funding. Unfortunately, a lack of information, the huge
investments made in vivisection, powerful economic interests
and a blind trust in traditional but wrong methods of research
are enormous obstacles - but we must fight our way through
Many people are horrified about vivisection, but they would
be much more so if they knew the gigantic errors it gives
rise to - and their consequences. Vivisection does not only
give false results; it also distracts medical attention from
the proper sources of information. Most experiments are done
to produce publications, for economic profit or for academic
The health system must be changed for ever. The way to do
this is to fight against causes rather than trying to reduce
In Greece, this means that we should:
- improve social conditions
- find solutions to unemployment
- stop the ecological catastrophe
- improve our diet
- apply clinical studies
- avoid harmful therapies
- educate people about health
- give encouragement to alternative methods in medicine .
- offer real ethical and material help to patients and invalids,
- independently of their social-security standing
Our contemporary consumer society, its structures and ways
of functioning, creates unhealthy people, who are without
individuality and without beliefs. Their sole occupation is
the acquisition of material goods; they are anxious, frightened
and without the necessary will to create anything or to resist
anything. All this gives rise to many illnesses, and contemporary
medicine colludes in the multiplying of these illnesses in
1. In our social structure, doctors learn to prescribe a therapy
for a group of symptoms, but this doesn't necessarily mean
a cure. Many illnesses have a social, economic, political
or psychological background, or a mixture of these.
2. Medicine today makes us believe that health can be bought,
so that we get the impression that it depends on the use of
specialised services and medicines and that every organ, every
biological change, every age and every psychological state
needs a specialist doctor.
The distribution of medicine depends on the laws of marketing;
clearly the aim is not simply to improve health. The catastrophes
of environmental pollution, the imbalance of man with nature,
bad diet, bad housing, stress and misery all work together
to produce illness and unbalanced organisms in minds.
For all these problems, our contemporary society finds an
alibi in animal experimentation. In its testing of pointless
materials (cosmetics, chemicals, medicines and so on) on animals,
and in picking out the wished for results, commercial medicine
imposes a great many dangerous substances on the market in
order to increase profits.
Vivisection is not just about torturing animals; it is not
simply a useless practice; it is also an extremely dangerous
one, because it supports an entirely wrong way of thinking
and a system based on financial interests.
Health doesn't just mean a lack of illness; it means peace
and the balance of man with nature, and therefore respect
towards all other living creatures who share our planet with
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