5 years of austerity takes its toll on Greek health care

Public and private hospitals in Greece are struggling to deliver good quality health care after years of austerity measures and the ongoing financial crisis. Eva Karamanoli reports from Athens.Corridors overflowing with patients; doctors trying to take care of them under intense physical and psychological pressure; shortages of drugs, medical supplies, and equipment; nurses in the intensive care unit struggling to meet the needs of the five or six patients they each have under their care. This is the typical picture in Greek public hospitals in 2015.The health-care sector is chronically ill, and getting worse by the day. 5 years of austerity, caused by, and in turn, fuelling the country’s financial crisis, have left scars on the national health system. Social insurance funds are in the red, while private insurers restrict their drug coverage, leaving people with serious illnesses, such as cancer, struggling to meet the costs of the medicine they need. “I have been suffering from cancer the past 7 years. The medicine I am on is extremely expensive, it costs €3300 per month. The cost used to be covered, for the most part, by my private insurance policy. But not anymore. Last week, I was informed that one of the medicines I take is no longer on their lists. I was terrified”, one patient, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Lancet.Shortages are the order of the day. In June, just before the imposition of controls on capital, which limited bank transactions for citizens and companies, the funds left in government coffers were a mere €77·3 million. In March, there was €796·5 million and in December, 2014, before the January election was called, there was €2·5 billion in cash reserves. In June, to pay pensions and the salaries of state employees, the government raided the reserves of social insurance funds and other public organisations, borrowing €9·7 billion.

Source: 5 years of austerity takes its toll on Greek health care

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