Last Sunday afternoon, about 600 of its inhabitants Santorini gathered outside the hospital of the island, which was also the starting point of the protest march. By the time they reached the central square of Fira, their number had more than doubled. It was the largest mobilization involving citizen participation that has taken place in Santorini in recent years regarding the serious understaffing of the hospital.
Such as Dimitris Toulis reported to “K”., member of the Coordinating Committee of Thira Citizens, “the response of the citizens is increasing. Now everyone has been through the hospital and knows the problems.” Thiras hospital was inaugurated in the summer of 2016 and according to Mr. Toulis, “by 2019 we had reached the point of having a good hospital. From 2019 onwards, the trend is downward. For the last three years, the hospital has not had a pathologist, there are periods when it does not have an anesthetist, and from September 28 it will not have a cardiologist, since the two cardiologists currently working at the hospital have submitted their resignations. There is one pediatrician for more than 4,500 children, who are permanent residents of the island. There should be at least three pediatricians. The private pediatricians in Santorini do not have time to meet the needs of the children.”
According to Mr. Toulis, in total the Thira hospital it has 21 doctors – instead of the 52 foreseen – to which 5-6 rural doctors are necessarily added to be on call from the island’s regional clinics. “On September 30, the contract of an anesthesiologist ends and it is not certain whether he will renew it. This often happens. In other words, the doctors who come don’t want to stay.” Mr. Toulis points out that when announcements are made for hiring doctors with fixed-term contracts, no particular interest is expressed, even though the salaries are high. He speculates that the reasons are the limited time of the contract (one year) and the difficult working conditions. “Many hours of work, staff do not get the leaves and days off they are entitled to. He is on almost permanent duty,” he notes. When asked if it is easy for a doctor to rent a property to stay at a reasonable price in Santorini, Mr. Toulis notes that “there is a housing problem. But that is not the reason why they do not come. It’s a very good excuse.”
“One by one the doctors are resigning”, said the president of the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees, commenting on the citizens’ mobilization Michalis Giannakos. And he continued: “Due to the legal status of the hospital, there are no announcements for NHS doctors, but private doctors with a service certificate are requested, but no interest is expressed even though their salary is higher than that of NHS doctors. It operates a pathology clinic without a pathologist, without a pulmonologist and with only three general practitioners. And yet more than 10 patients with serious pathological problems are hospitalized. The experienced GP contacted me. He expressed his despair and his intention to resign immediately because of the danger and exhaustion.”
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The understaffing of the hospital has resulted in many citizens seeking services in private health structures, covering the costs themselves. “The permanent residents of the island are approximately 25,000. With visitors there are periods when the population reaches 120,000 people. How to meet the needs of such a large population with only 21 doctors?”, emphasizes Mr. Toulis.
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