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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Has a Solution Arrived for the Uninsured?

"The exclusion of the uninsured from the public hospitals, kills" reads the banner

Press Release
Has a Solution Arrived for the Uninsured?

At last, after six years of economic austerity and four years of policies of the “memorandum” which has left the uninsured increasing excluded from the Greek public health system, it looks as if the government may be considering carrying out their constitutional obligations.  Could it be that the timing for this decision is connected with the soon-to-be-released tranche of funds to the country?  Another thing worth pondering is the persistence of some (journalists and politicians) in repeating that assistance for the uninsured is an obligation under the memorandum agreement.  This same Greek government together with the “Troika” decreed austerity measures in May 2010 without any planning or study as to what the results would have on society.  Now with new regulations enacted (Government Gazette 1465 of 05/06/2014 and 1753 of 28/06/2014) they hope to put out the fires that they ignited.

Specifically, under GG1465, uninsured Greeks and non-Greeks legally residing in the country will have hospital care without cost.  We certainly consider this a step in the right direction.  The main obstacle to this is the already dramatically reduced budgets for Greek public hospitals, which will be asked to cover the costs of the extended care.  We have seen a lot of cases of INSURED, but indigent patients who cannot find the medications needed for treatment and troll from hospital to hospital to try and locate them.  Recently, KAT hospital, one of the largest in the greater Athens area, announced it would stop performing surgery, because they don’t have the budget to cover the expenses involved.  These are problems that need SOLUTIONS.  We reckon that the three-member committee that will be appointed to look into these issues, will have a huge job.  Official sources number uninsured citizens at 3,000,000.  How can they be assisted without serious problems and huge delays?

Government Gazette 1753 of 28/06/2014 covers pharmaceutical needs of uninsured Greeks and foreigners legally resident in Greece who can pay the same contribution as those insured.  Expensive medications (and only expensive medications) will be provided without cost, which we feel is a positive step.

The thing that we wonder about here – and this comes from long experience - is that many of the long term unemployed will find it impossible to contribute in any way to payments.  Indeed, with the last modifications to regulations, the Greek Health Ministry increased the co-pays, which creates problems for many of the low-income insured.  Unfortunately, we have many examples of insured citizens who don’t have the means to pay into insurance plans.  So we have to find a mechanism under which those who cannot pay can at least have access to their medication.

But at any rate, with the regulations cited above, along with the ability of public health clinics to admit uninsured patients, at least some uninsured are coming back in the Greek public health system.  Those needs that are not covered are, specifically:

1)      There is a cap of 340 million Euros for medication for all uninsured.  If more is needed, what happens?  
2)      There is no mention in either of the government gazette entries of lab tests, blood tests, MRI, X-Rays etc. for outpatients visiting public health clinics and not admitted to hospital.  What happens in these cases?
3)      Immigrants who are not legally documented where do they go?  Without any recourse to health care, they could be a public health bomb waiting to explode.  What do they do?  A solution should be found for them, perhaps utilizing funds from the EU.
The measures enacted for the uninsured are, without question, a step in the right direction but fall short of full and free access to the Greek public health system.  The big challenge for the Greek government is to focus on proper funding and staffing of the public health system, putting a stop to “creative accounting” practices, and to put a halt to the degradation of the health services while managing funds rationally.  And to do this without social/solidarity clinics, NGO’s funded by the European Union through the National Strategic Reference Framework.  These funds could go directly to strengthen the Greek public health system and cover all the needs of the uninsured.

The Greek public health service is opening up, at least partially, to the uninsured.  They can now access primary care (through the system’s public health clinics) and secondary level care through access to public hospitals and at least some access to medications.  This has been a partial vindication of the gargantuan struggle undertaken by the volunteer community clinics and pharmacies from all over Greece – a struggle lasting three years, constantly pressuring for policies to make access to public health more inclusive rather than exclusive.  The volunteers of the various social solidarity clinics feel we were able to at least partially reverse some of the disastrous policies enacted during the economic crisis. 

The pressure will continue.  We have never been afraid to “speak truth to power.”  Our goal is to see a Greek public health system that is open to all including the most vulnerable groups.  We want to correct the wrongs that lead to an impoverished society. 


Below is a spot from the German “Spiegel TV” which discusses the policies of the past 4 years and shows MCCH.  It is in German with Greek subtitles.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYzRGpZgNeE








METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CLINIC AT HELLINIKO 

  Working Hours
(MONDAY - FRIDAY 10:00 - 20:00)  and (SATURDAY 10:00 - 14:00) 
CONTACT PHONE NUMBER: +30 210 9631950 
ADDRESS: Inside the old American Military Base, 200m away from the Traffic Police of the Municipality of Helleniko, next to the Cultural Center of Helleniko
Post code TK16777, Elliniko, Attiki, Greece 
Blog 
http://mkie-foreign.blogspot.gr/ Email mkiellinikou@gmail.com

Another Donation from Australia




Press Release
Another Donation from Australia

It is always pleasing when people are good enough to volunteer much needed medicines to us, especially when such a donation comes from a compatriot living in far-off Australia.  On the 27th of June we received a great deal of medicines from this individual and all we can say is that we thank him profusely from the bottom of our hearts.  It is really significant that our message is heard so far away and that many Greek immigrants respond.

Our decision not to accept money is a conscious one.   For one thing, we don’t want anyone to doubt that their help will reach its goal.  For another, if a person wants to help and brings us medicine or some other contribution in kind, he becomes involved in lending a helping hand to those in need.  The donor enters the process, and may come to the clinic and see what is being done.  In this is the way people learn they can become part of the solution to our problems.  The magic word and concept is self organization.

We thank wholeheartedly all those who help so much by bringing various medicines to our doors each and every week.  We also wish to thank those who stand at our side in protesting against the outrageous conditions sweeping like a whirlwind through our society.

We hope our thanks can be felt in the far-flung shores of Australia.  We send them our love and gratitude.   


METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CLINIC AT HELLINIKO 

  Working Hours
(MONDAY - FRIDAY 10:00 - 20:00)  and (SATURDAY 10:00 - 14:00) 
CONTACT PHONE NUMBER: +30 210 9631950 
ADDRESS: Inside the old American Military Base, 200m away from the Traffic Police of the Municipality of Helleniko, next to the Cultural Center of Helleniko
Post code TK16777, Elliniko, Attiki, Greece 
Blog 
http://mkie-foreign.blogspot.gr/ Email mkiellinikou@gmail.com

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Metropolitan Community Clinic at Helliniko at Strasburg One More Time




Press Release
The Metropolitan Community Clinic at Helliniko at Strasburg One More Time

MCCH was invited once more to take part in an event of the Council of Europe held on June 24th in Strasbourg.  This has been the second time in eight months (Read more here about the first time).

The event coincides with the opening of the new European Parliament after the latest European elections – and is therefore significant.  The volunteer doctor George Vichas was our representative and spoke mainly on three issues. 

The first analyzed the present situation of public health in Greece – especially as far as the uninsured are concerned, with special note on the changes since the first meeting eight months ago.  The picture was not a happy one since there was an obvious deterioration on all levels of the Greek public health system.

The second subject concerned the ways in which independent and active citizens could mobilize to aid vulnerable groups victimized by the state itself with their inhuman policies.  The experience and endeavors of MCCH during the last 2 ½ years were used to exemplify what independent citizens could do.

The third subject focused on the fact that the deplorable situation in Greece has reached the unpleasant necessity for legal action against so many people in the government whose policies have led to the disability and death of uninsured patients.  It was also explained how these policies, besides being unethical and un-humanitarian, ended up costing the country more in the long run.

The audience was bothered by some of the hard truths presented by Dr. Vichas – especially when they heard the word “murder” likened to the deaths of uninsured patients.  There are those in the Council of Europe who don’t want to hear about the guilt of politicians, whether in Greece or elsewhere in Europe that should be investigated.

All we can say is that such devastating problems should not and cannot be wished away by ineffectual resolutions and PR gimmicks.  What is happening in Greece will become known.  We and other volunteer community clinics and pharmacies will continue to oppose such brutal policies wherever they come from.





METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CLINIC AT HELLINIKO 

  Working Hours
(MONDAY - FRIDAY 10:00 - 20:00)  and (SATURDAY 10:00 - 14:00) 
CONTACT PHONE NUMBER: +30 210 9631950 
ADDRESS: Inside the old American Military Base, 200m away from the Traffic Police of the Municipality of Helleniko, next to the Cultural Center of Helleniko
Post code TK16777, Elliniko, Attiki, Greece 
Blog 
http://mkie-foreign.blogspot.gr/ Email mkiellinikou@gmail.com



The Social Trojan Horse has Arrived




Press Release
The Social Trojan Horse has Arrived

When we issued the February press release entitled “Social Solidarity or Social TrojanHorse” we had in mind various community clinics and pharmacies which have sprung up in municipalities throughout Greece and are financed by the government and by the European Union.  We wrote then about some problems we foresaw based n what was happening around us.  These problems are no longer just thoughts – they have appeared and we should all be aware of it.

The creation of the National Network of Immediate Social Intervention (http://www.koinoniasos.gr/) is clearest example of state sponsored hypocrisy.  At the same time that the Greek Public Health system is dissolving due to underfunding, the government has arranged funding, together with the European Union for organizations that barely come under the supervision of the Greek Public Health System.  The Network has initial funding of €40 million.  (read more at http://www.step.gov.gr/item/index/id/88).  This is happening at the same time when some 10’s of millions can’t be found for treatment and medication for 3 million of our uninsured fellow citizens.

On the one hand IKA/EOPPY is much reduced in its transformation to PEDY and the dismissal of half of the medical staff.  All public hospitals are underfunded to the point that insured patients, like the indigent, are not sure of finding their medication.  On the other hand, the government found 40 million to fund a network of specific NGOS and support organizations within the municipalities to support those shut out of the public health system.  And many of these semi-volunteer organizations have funding for only staff salaries, which means the uninsured still have to seek sources for their medication – usually at purely volunteer organizations, like ours.

In short, the state decided not to strengthen the Greek Public Health System, but use its precious funds (from both the national budget and from the European Union)  to invest in unproven and new structures that cannot provide the same quality of service as public health system and are certainly not prepared to handle the huge volume handled by the Greek Public Health System.

The Social Trojan Horse is here and some will reap huge profits off all the rest of us.  The 3 million unemployed are still left in the wind and await assistance.  With the €40 million, the true voluntary community clinics and pharmacies could finance medication needs for the unemployed for a great long while.  Patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes must continue to suffer on.

Unemployed cancer patients have only one source of help, the Cancer Clinic at Sotiria Hospital where the doctors and medical staff VOLUNTARILY give their time and provide chemotherapy to those in need (with no help from the state).  Disabled patients, who are insured, are trapped in their homes because the resources that supported them (home care services) have either been underfunded or abolished altogether.  The Center for Certifying Disability (KEPA) can take months to complete their admittedly difficult task, because of a shocking lack of medical resources.  As mentioned above, all the public hospitals are severely underfunded and are operating on the very verge of collapse.  Those insured have seen their co-pays increase for medications (in some cases 50%) (read more here http://www.mkiellinikou.org/2014/05 / 21/farmaka /) – in Greek.

The repeated recommendations for Greece from the European Parliaments (read here) and the Council of Europe (read here) and more recently by the International Labor Organization (read here) haven’t had effect in our country despite the fact that we find ourselves in the 6th year of economic crisis.


How many more victims have to stack up before the authorities adopt what are, by now, obvious measures?  Open the Greek Public Health system to all the uninsured and fund it to a level that it can carry out its mission.



METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CLINIC AT HELLINIKO 

  Working Hours
(MONDAY - FRIDAY 10:00 - 20:00)  and (SATURDAY 10:00 - 14:00) 
CONTACT PHONE NUMBER: +30 210 9631950 
ADDRESS: Inside the old American Military Base, 200m away from the Traffic Police of the Municipality of Helleniko, next to the Cultural Center of Helleniko
Post code TK16777, Elliniko, Attiki, Greece 
Blog 
http://mkie-foreign.blogspot.gr/ Email mkiellinikou@gmail.com



Friday, June 20, 2014

The Destruction of Greek Public Insurance using the pretext of the Crisis!




Press Release

The Destruction of Greek Public Insurance using the pretext of the Crisis!


The 2014 report of the ILO (International Labor Organization of the UN) on World Social Protection makes interesting reading.  You can read it here – http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_245201.pdf

It is glaringly obvious that in a period of economic crisis, such as the one we’re living through, human rights are not in the forefront of policy anywhere.  According to the ILO report, social welfare and pubic insurance policies, which play a very important role in the realization of human rights regarding health, education, reduction of poverty and social equality are waning, rather than becoming stronger.

Unemployment is recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as an important area that should be covered by public welfare systems (article 25).  Data from the European Union shows that that the unemployed who receive unemployment benefits are more likely to return to work than those who do not (European Commission 2014, p. 163).  But even so, the right to public insurance for the unemployed is shrinking at the precise period when it is most needed.  In 2010-2011, the percentage of GDP to public expenditure on social protection programs for working age people in Greece (excluding health) reached only 2% (less than the percentage in Albania and Bulgaria), while in countries such as Belgium, Ireland and even Spain (also badly hit by the crisis) the level is more than 6%, and more than 8% in Scandinavian countries.  

As a direct consequence, between 2007 and 2012, child poverty increased in 19 of the 28 member states of the European Union while more than a quarter of the children in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Romania and Spain live below the poverty level (€7,178 per year for and individual, and €15,073 euros for a family of four).  The increase in child poverty is cause for alarm not only for the negative, long term impact in relation to the future employment prospects of the today’s children, but also for the future productivity of European economies (European Commission 2014A)

Concerning public pensions, Greece is one of the few countries in the world (the only other European countries being Spain and Albania) where there has been an overall reduction of pension levels (which started in 2010-2012.  Nobel prizewinning economist Joseph Stiglitz sounded the alarm, but in vain.  “When the economy gets weaker, spending on social protection and unemployment schemes should automatically go up, helping to stabilize the economy. ……One of the sad facts of the so-called reforms in recent decades is that we have been weakening these important automatic stabilizers.” (International Labour Review, Vol. 148 (2009), No. 1–2).

In Greece, the budgetary consolidation measures have featured significant budget cuts, even in health.  The per capita expenditure on health in Greece fell 11.1% between 2009 and 2011 (OECD 2013c) while the health budget for 2011 decreased by €1.4 billion.  These cuts have led to reduced health care delivery and problems in a wide range of areas from preventative care to the availability and affordability of health services and essential medicines such as antibiotics.  Creation and maintenance of health infrastructure has also been adversely affected.

Shifting the burden for health care payment from the puclic purse to individual pockets has particularly serious consequences for low income groups.  At the exact same time, fiscal consolidation measures have resulted in the reduction of workers in the health field and a reduction of their salaries.  The increase demand for public health services was self-evident.

It is clear that the recovery effort of the financial sector has been at the expense of social protection programs, as if this was the cause of the crisis.  However, deficits continue to grow, the bank bailouts go on and revenues continue to decline because of the economic downturn.   Oliver Blanchard, the Chief Economist at the IMF has admitted that there were serious errors in the design of the fiscal consolidation policies (Blanchard and Leigh 2013).  The increase of unemployment and poverty on this scale in so many European countries should have led to measures that increased and improved spending for social protection programs, not wholesale cutbacks.

For example, in Greece, salaries have been cut by nearly 35% and unemployment reached 28% from 2008 to 2013.  And yet, expenses for social protection programs were reduced by more than 12% in the same period.  Inevitably, poverty in Greece climbed to a record level exceeding 35% of the population in 2013 with all the attendant misery connected with families who cannot meet their basic needs.

Recently the European Parliament launched an inquiry into the legitimacy of these “reforms” as concerns Ireland, Cyprus, Spain, Slovenia, Portugal Italy and Greece (European Parliament 2014b).  You can read their conclusions here (http://mkie-foreign.blogspot.gr/2014/03/a-resolution-by-european-parliament.html)




METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CLINIC AT HELLINIKO 

  Working Hours
(MONDAY - FRIDAY 10:00 - 20:00)  and (SATURDAY 10:00 - 14:00) 
CONTACT PHONE NUMBER: +30 210 9631950 
ADDRESS: Inside the old American Military Base, 200m away from the Traffic Police of the Municipality of Helleniko, next to the Cultural Center of Helleniko
Post code TK16777, Elliniko, Attiki, Greece 
Blog 
http://mkie-foreign.blogspot.gr/ Email mkiellinikou@gmail.com


Mr. Georgiades, are you going to apologize now to the uninsured patient who was thrown out of surgery?!




Press Release

Mr. Georgiades, are you going to apologize now to the uninsured patient who was thrown out of surgery?!


You can see above a letter by G.D., a 54 year old heart patient mentioned last month in an effort to solve his health problem.  He describes in detail the incident at Evanglismos hospital and he makes very clear that the Minister of Health is not telling the truth.

To remind our readers, this is the patient who, on 7 May 2014 was thrown out of the hospital just before an operation to insert a pacemaker was to take place; an operation necessary to protect his life.  Read more here (http://mkie-foreign.blogspot.gr/2014/06/message-to-greek-minister-of-health-if.html).

The Greek Ministry of Health – and the Minister himself – tried to put the blame on our clinic in three press releases – which you can read here 1, 2, 3 (in Greek).

The Ministry of Health insisted that we were to blame, that the whole story was concocted by us, and that there was no patient ejected from the hospital!

Here attached, you will find a video featuring the Greek Minister of Health in an interview together with our Dr. Vichas aired on 17 May 2014.  It is in the Greek language, but even if you don’t understand Greek, you’ll get the gist. The (now former) Greek Minister of Health is the one who is getting hysterically angry. He insists that we are liars and leading the public astray.  Our Doctor George Vichas is attempting to calmly respond.  The commentators are calling on Mr. Georgiadis to be quiet long enough to allow Dr. Vichas to answer. 






METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CLINIC AT HELLINIKO 

  Working Hours
(MONDAY - FRIDAY 10:00 - 20:00)  and (SATURDAY 10:00 - 14:00) 
CONTACT PHONE NUMBER: +30 210 9631950 
ADDRESS: Inside the old American Military Base, 200m away from the Traffic Police of the Municipality of Helleniko, next to the Cultural Center of Helleniko
Post code TK16777, Elliniko, Attiki, Greece 
Blog 
http://mkie-foreign.blogspot.gr/ Email mkiellinikou@gmail.com

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Message to the Greek Minister of Health: If you can’t do the job, then resign!



Press Release

Message to the Greek Minister of Health:
If you can’t do the job, then resign!


The announcement of the Greek Ministry of Health in answer to our press-release of the previous day shows clearly that the Ministry has no idea of what their duties are.

Once more, we will answer the questions raised by the Health Ministry in their communication.

1)      To the charge that we imagined that the 54 year old uninsured patient was thrown out of surgery by the hospital administration, we respond that this was confirmed by not only the patient and his wife, but also by others within the hospital.  The patient was admitted for surgery after pressure by the doctors of Evangelismos hospital on the understanding that he would soon be issued with a welfare booklet which would allow him to not have to pay for the expensive operation.  However, at the last minute, the head of accounting of the hospital rejected this plan and forced the patient to leave.  That is exactly what happened. 
2)      We intervened for the sole purposed of helping the patient defend his life.  When a cardiologist decides a patient must receive a pacemaker, and must receive it immediately, that is enough to show that the patient is vulnerable at any time which could be fatal.  No cardiologist can predict when a serious arrhythmia, or worse will occur.  It’s bad enough that some non-medical staffer can make such a patient wait for a month.  But it’s down-right strange that this patient couldn’t get the proper care from the beginning of his condition.  Perhaps it’s even stranger that the Ministry of Health is trying desperately to excuse its behavior with two announcements in 24 hours.  Since the operation was scheduled, as the Ministry of Health stated, why was the patient contacted by the hospital to be re-admitted the following day?  What would this patient have done if we had not provided him the medication he required?
3)      We announced on our Facebook page Tuesday night 13 May and that the patient had been re-admitted to hospital for surgery.  We did this because, unfortunately, we have often received promises from the Ministry which ended up being empty words.  We don’t announce the promises – just those that are carried through.  The next day on Wednesday 14 May, it was confirmed to us that the patient had been re-admitted and we announced it on our web page.  The issue is why did the hospital administration make such a big deal over doing what was expected?  The patient had access to doctors (at Evangelismos) and had medicines from us.  But why did they not proceed with the surgery the first time he was admitted?  The surgery occurred only after we publicized the whole story.  What does the Ministry want us to believe?  That is was just coincidence that on the night of Tuesday 13 May the hospital administration called the patient to tell him that we would be re-admitted the very next day?  Is it standard procedure for the hospital administration to call every patient and inform him to come in for surgery the next day?  Why then on Wednesday 14 May did we get a panicky call from the administration of the hospital asking us to cancel and delete the press release since “all’s well that ends well?”  
4)      We question the hospital administration and the Greek Health Ministry, not the doctors who extend themselves to help thousands of citizen on a daily basis and under the very difficult conditions imposed by the economic memorandum and the Troika (cuts in public hospital budgets, hospital closures, the dissolving of EOPPY, reduction in medical personnel, increase in costs of public health for those who do have access to it, etc.)  The daily situation that doctors and medical staff have to face in Greek public hospitals is tragic.  Often basic goods are lacking, such as gauze, not to mention expensive medicines, spares for diagnostic machinery rendering them useless, etc.
5)       For our four uninsured patients with hepatitis, we were pleased that the Ministry of Health publicly admitted that they referred us to a pharmaceutical company.  So we once again emphasize that the leadership of the Ministry of health should IMMEDIATELY resign, not only because it improperly does its job by referring uninsured with communicable diseases to find treatment directly from the pharmaceutical company, but also because the patients were referred to us to provide medication or to provide surgery (read here for more information – in Greek).  The Ministry of Health is responsible for protecting the public health of society as a whole – not refer individuals to private companies or voluntary clinics.  If they can’t do this, and believe that we can do the job better, then pass the administration on to us – we’ll do our best!!  Until that day, the Ministry of Health is RESPONSIBLE for these four patients, not to mention the 3 million other uninsured in this country.  Finally, just to note, our problem was not to find the refrigeration to store the medication, but to find the medication itself for these 4 patients.

Finally we have to say that all the energy that the Ministry of Health has put in to publicizing their differences with us – two press releases in 24 hours - could have been better spent in helping uninsured patients, and not trying to justify the unjustifiable.  Volunteer clinics like ours, trying to bring solidarity to the community have nothing to gain from a public feud with the Ministry of Health.  We do not/will not play such games.
If we were playing “political games”, perhaps the social services of the municipality of Glyfada were playing games when they referred the patient to us, knowing all the details of the case?
Maybe the United Nations is playing games when they published a report citing serious violations of human rights of both citizens and immigrants from the Greek state, and pointing up the many shortfalls of the Greek public health system?
Neither us, nor Glyfada nor the UN are playing games, we’re simply expressing truths that some parties would rather not become widely known.
The treatment that our clinic recommends for the Greek Minister of Health and his colleagues is for them to collectively bend their heads a bit and listen carefully to the hundreds of citizens who contact them and find a comprehensive solution to their problems, rather than trying to patch up or cover up the issues.  Let us finally open the Greek Public Health System to all of the Greek public, whether insured or not!!




METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CLINIC AT HELLINIKO 

  Working Hours
(MONDAY - FRIDAY 10:00 - 20:00)  and (SATURDAY 10:00 - 14:00) 
CONTACT PHONE NUMBER: +30 210 9631950 
ADDRESS: Inside the old American Military Base, 200m away from the Traffic Police of the Municipality of Helleniko, next to the Cultural Center of Helleniko
Post code TK16777, Elliniko, Attiki, Greece 
Blog 
http://mkie-foreign.blogspot.gr/ Email mkiellinikou@gmail.com