ATHENS – A year ago, Greece prided itself on successfully quashing its coronavirus curve like few countries worldwide. Now, it is struggling with a roaring resurgence of the bug that causes the COVID-19 disease. As infections continue to surge, the government in Athens is preparing to draft doctors from the private sector to aid the state’s strained health system and hospital staff exhausted by an influx of patients.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says Greece is fighting a last battle in its war against the pandemic.
But the voluntary assistance it has requested from doctors across the nation, in recent days, has not come through. … And that has the conservative leader here saying he will not think twice about drafting medical personnel from the private sector to reinforce the health care system in the public sector.
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The prime minister’s warning comes as Greece grapples with a surge in coronavirus infections, a startling spike that has seen cases grow from around 3,000 in September to nearly 240,000 this past week.
Sofia Pouriki, a doctor at the state Sotiria hospital, describes the severity of the situation.
This last wave, she says, is just terrible. She says too many patients are being admitted to hospitals and that is overwhelming the health care system with intensive care wards running out of beds to treat people.
Hospital doctors and staff, says Pouriki, are exhausted.
Of about 200 doctors requested by the government to assist their colleagues in the public sector, just 50 have come forward. Worse yet, attempts over the weekend to woo them with bonus fees failed.
Doctors associations across the country say the government should first recruit residents at state hospitals and other medical staff waiting to be hired before proceeding with the order, which they describe as absolutely extreme.
Athanasios Exadaktylos, president of the country’s doctors’ federation, warns against it.
Ultimatums of this sort he says, can only prove counterproductive.
Much of Greece has been in lockdown since November, fueling frustration, riots and deepening financial woes in a country still crawling out from a decade-long recession.
And while draconian measures have not helped the government effectively manage the health crisis, it is now opting for a different approach, allowing shops and businesses to operate anew in a desperate bid to least salvage the failing state of the economy.
The government says it will also start distributing free self-test kits in the coming weeks to alleviate pressure on the health care system. Experts say the move may pave the way for a new way of self-care against the pandemic within the European Union.