An article in German newspaper Handesblatt features an extensicve article on the sorry state of the Greek emergency rescue service notes that some of the ambulances have mileage comparable to athree trips from the earth to the moon!
Greek hospital doctors entered into a 24-hour strike on Thursday. Their union OENGE said they are protesting against a new law that will increase their working time from today's maximum of 48 hours to up to 60 hours a week. In addition, they are protesting against the cuts in their salaries and demand the recruitment of more doctors and hospital staff.
Because of the strike State hospitals treat only emergencies, said a spokeswoman for the Association of Hospital doctors on Greek television.
As the German newspaper notes, the ever-increasing cuts in Greece are also leaving their mark on the emergency rescue service. Some ambulances in Athens already have up to a million kilometers on the odometer - that's almost three times the distance to the moon. About half of the vehicles fail because there are no spare parts. At night, fewer than 40 ambulances are available to more than four million residents.
The demand has risen in recent times, because many Greeks can no longer be treated privately. The emergency service has the duty to respond to every call, says rescue physician Dimitris Dimitriadis. Some, however, only used the emergency call to be taken to the hospital ahead of queues and taken straight to the doctor.
"But then you have older people who can not afford a taxi and therefore call an ambulance," says Dimitriadis as he rushes to a house that reported an attempted suicide. Once there, he learns that relatives had taken the injured person to the hospital.
Greece has been straining for years under a financial crisis. The government has cut spending, increased taxes and cut pensions to meet the demands of international creditors who are holding loans from sovereign default. Athens announced that Greece, will receive the next tranche of the aid package to the amount of 8.5 billion euros.
The emergency rescue services are doing their best, despite all odds, the union assures. They focus on emergency calls for quick treatment and are on the move within minutes. However, patients who wanted to be hospitalized would sometimes have to wait more than an hour for patient transport.
This is no wonder, said union leader Giorgos Mathiopoulos, because 70 of the 140 ambulances in Athens can not be operated because of technical problems. The vehicle fleet would actually have to be doubled. "Up to 30 percent of the disabled ambulance can not be repaired," says Mathiopoulos.
Many were "cannibalized" for spare parts, so that at least the other cars remain operational. "We try to get to an accident as soon as possible," he says. But of course one worries if a vehicle has so many miles on the counter.
Meanwhile, the government promises a more effective rescue service and wants to order new vehicles. The private Stavros Niarchos Foundation has pledged 14 million euros, through which 143 ambulance cars are to be purchased - for the whole of Greece.
Due to the severe financial crisis, hardly any new doctors and hospital staff have been recruited in Greece in the past six years. Many hospitals today have many older doctors. According to the Athens Medical Association, more than 18,000 young Greek physicians have emigrated since 2010. The majority of them work in the UK, Germany and the Arab Gulf States, Handelsblatt concludes.