Upset with big pay cuts and not being paid for months in some cases, Greek medical workers warned that reductions in the health care system are putting people at risk and causing many doctors to flee the country in search of work and a better life elsewhere.
They protested the coming consolidation of a number of hospitals into clinics and other cutbacks in health spending demanded by the country’s international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) who are putting up $325 billion in two bailouts to prop up the country’s faltering economy.
The government is in the process of downsizing eight hospitals in Athens and Thessaloniki and turning them into health centers with over 1,600 staff members being reassigned elsewhere. “We already had staff shortages and the new employees we are supposed to receive are just a drop in the ocean compared to our needs,” lias Sioras, a doctor at one of Athens’ hospitals told Press TV.
Kyriakos Souliotis, an assistant professor of health policy at the University of the Peloponnese, said cuts could destabilize the whole health system while the country is struggling with a record 27.9 percent unemployment rate and with 20 percent of the people pushed into poverty level wages by pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions.
He also said that under pressure from its creditors, Greece has been forced to apply in just two years measures that other European countries implemented over a decade and was being unfairly squeezed.
The workers said they would colleagues from other sectors in striking on Sept. 18-19. Greece has pledged to redeploy 25,000 public workers and lay off an additional 4,000 civil servants by the end of this year in exchange for further rescue funds but has admitted many of them will just be fired immediately or eventually.
Authorities had already cut the public health budget by 25 percent and slashed spending on medicine by one-third during 2010 and 2011 to 3.75 billion euros, about $4.98 billion.