Greek doctors protest ‘suffocating’ conditions at COVID-19 clinics

Greek hospital doctors and staff take part in a demonstration against a lack of intensive care units at public hospitals, in Athens
Demonstrators stand next to police officers as Greek hospital doctors and staff take part in a demonstration against a lack of intensive care units at public hospitals, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Athens, Greece, February 23, 2021. REUTERS/Louiza Vradi

February 23, 2021

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek hospital doctors went on a day-long strike on Tuesday and dozens marched in Athens to protest “suffocating” conditions at hospitals on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.

With around 6,000 deaths, Greece has fared better than much of Europe in containing the pandemic and prevented its health service, battered by years of financial crisis, from collapsing.

But intensive care units at state hospitals are operating at roughly 80% capacity and doctors want the government to create new units for COVID-19 patients instead of using already existing ones, as well as to hire more staff and to use resources from the private sector.

“There is a serious risk both for critically ill COVID-19 patients and critically ill patients with other diseases,” the union of hospital doctors, OENGE, said in a statement. It described the situation at hospitals as “suffocating.”

Wearing surgical masks, doctors demonstrated in Athens holding banners reading “Support health workers,” and an image of a healthcare worker with a fist raised in protest.

“Any negative impact on the public’s health will be the sole responsibility of the government, despite its efforts to pass on the responsibly to hospital doctors and other health professionals,” OEGNE said.

More than 1,200 COVID patients have been through intensive care in Greece since the pandemic began.

In January, a separate union of hospital workers warned of an impending health crisis as hospitals limit non-emergency operations and waiting lists for some surgeries stretch to up to two years, it said.

Greece extended lockdown restrictions to more areas last week to stem the spread of COVID-19 infections, and kept restaurants, schools, salons and non-essential retail shops closed.

On Tuesday, health authorities reported 880 new coronavirus cases and 24 deaths, bringing total infections to 179,802 since the first case was detected in February last year and COVID-related deaths to 6,297.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)