The five million citizens of the Greek capital are only covered by 70 “rusty” vehicles, and patients returning home from hospital routinely wait as long as six hours, with those released at peak times such as midday unable to leave until 3 a.m. because the fleet was busy bringing in urgent cases.
As such, private ambulances are gradually becoming more popular for those that can afford the high cost. Giannis Housos, president of the National Centre of Emergency in Greece (EKAV) trade union, admitted Saturday to Vima newspaper: “A fleet of 70 vehicles, used day and night for a city of more than five million people is very small. These kinds of delays are only expected, especially for patients that are been released from the health units and need to return home. It can happen that an ambulance will become available after 2-3 hours, depending on the day and the time and also the traffic. However, sometimes a non-urgent incident status will change to urgent if the patient has been waiting for a long time.”
Mr. Housos seems to believe that EKAV also has insufficient motorcycles, with only four available per shift stationed at three different areas of Attica: the city centre, Dafne and Peristeri.
Problems with the ambulances in Attica are never-ending, due to the large population and the way the hospitals run their night shifts, but have nevertheless multiplied over the past month as EKAV drivers have also had to substitute for the hospitals’ own drivers.
EKAV’s ambulances are not only very few in number but also in very bad mechanical condition. Most of them have done hundreds of thousands of kilometers, and there are no plans or funds to replace vehicles when they fall out of service.
The same problem besets Thessaloniki, where most vehicles have covered more than 500,000 kilometers and have constant mechanical errors. The process of renewing the fleet started back in 2007, but is incomplete.