Greece seizes beds from private hospitals as COVID-19 gets out of control

The association of private clinics said it cannot provide COVID-19 beds citing fears of spread of the disease to non-COVID patients but also the inability to handle such cases. [Shutterstock/ Alexandros Michailidis]

Faced with a steep rise of COVID-19 cases in northern Greece, the ministry of health told private hospitals on Thursday (20 November) to voluntarily provide 200 COVID-19 beds or be forced to do so.

In his letter, the secretary general of the health ministry requested 200 beds for COVID-19 patients “immediately” from the private clinics in the region of Thessaloniki.

Failing to do so, the ministry will otherwise enforce a compulsory measure of universal requisition, he added.

Private clinics said they cannot provide COVID-19 beds, citing their inability to handle coronavirus cases as well as fears that the disease could spread to non-COVID patients.

“Hospitalisation in a public hospital has nothing to do with hospitalisation in a private one,” said the association of private clinics. “It is very different for a patient to be treated in a COVID-19 unit of a public hospital – where all the necessary equipment is available – than to be treated in a private clinic where neither the necessary staff is trained for COVID cases nor there is specialised equipment,” it said.

Hospitals in northern Greece in the red

The private clinics association said the ministry already announced one month ago that additional beds would be requested from them. In response, they have contributed by accepting non-COVID patients in order to relieve public hospitals.

“Every day about 50 people from public hospitals come to private clinics. So far there are a total of 250 patients in the private clinics of Thessaloniki,” the association said.

The situation in northern Greece is getting out of control as the numbers of people in need of intensive care have increased sharply. The virus is spreading rapidly in Thessaloniki and public hospitals have warned they will soon no longer be able to accept new patients.

Despite the lockdown and the strict safety measures imposed by the government, intubated coronavirus patients have reached 499 yesterday, while 3,200 new cases were reported, and 59 people lost the battle with the virus.

Of the 3,200 cases, 774 were reported in Thessaloniki and 646 in Athens.

“If the situation continues at the same pace, the city will not be able to lift the weight,” the governor of Central Macedonia, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, told MEGA TV.

Greece’s Thessaloniki risks experiencing ‘Bergamo’ COVID-19 scenarios

The sharp rise of COVID-19 cases in Greece’s Thessaloniki has raised eyebrows in the government, which is now trying to come up with quick solutions to avoid a tragedy similar to the one in Italy’s Bergamo during the first wave.

Government under fire

The main opposition party, the leftist Syriza, lashed out against the conservative New Democracy government, accusing it of lacking an overall plan.

“We had to completely lose control of the pandemic and see an almost entire collapse of the national health system in Thessaloniki in order for the government to finally show its strength to private clinics,” Syriza said in a statement.

“Even now at this critical moment, there is no plan, the government has adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach,” it added.

Syriza claims that the conservative government has so far tried to “protect” the interests of private clinics and asked for the immediate requisition of COVID-19 beds “without negotiations”.

(Edited by Frédéric Simon)

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