Greek doctors unite to help poorest patients

Health workers in Greece are volunteering their time to provide medical treatment for those who are no longer eligible for free healthcare as a result of government austerity measures

Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals in and around Athens are working extra hours for free using spare medical supplies or supplies donated by pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies and former patients, according to Dr Giorgis Vichas, a cardiologist who started the movement.

Until recently, Greece had a healthcare system similar to most other European countries, where employers and individuals contributed to a fund that, combined with government assistance, allowed care for all.

However, in July 2011 Greece signed a loan agreement with international lenders, which stipulated that all personal healthcare costs must be paid after benefits allowances expire. Benefit payments stop after a year of continuous unemployment.

About half of Greece’s 1.2 million long-term unemployed lack health insurance and it is these people that the unofficial network of health professionals aims to help.

Speaking to the New York Times, pathologist Korina Liberopoulou said: “Sometimes I come home tired, exhausted, seeing double, but as long as there are materials to work with, this practice will go on.”