Greece ‘in denial’ over healthcare problems

Homeless immigrant. Germany, undated.

The Greek government and the troika are “in denial” about the scale of the problems created by unprecedented cuts in health spending in the southern EU country, experts have said.

In an report published by one of the leading medical journals, The Lancet, academics from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine say that the Greek government is wrong when it claims that public-spending cuts have not damaged health.

Furthermore, it is also true that vulnerable groups, such as the homeless or uninsured people have been denied access to healthcare in Greece, according to the report.

The humanitarian group Doctors of the World has previously revealed that while most of the patients who receive free treatment at the group's clinics have been migrants, almost half of the patients have been Greek citizens over the past year, due to the financial crisis.

“In view of this detailed body of evidence for the harmful effects of austerity on health, the failure of public recognition of the issue by successive Greek governments and international agencies is remarkable,” the report read.

“Indeed, the predominant response has been denial that any serious difficulties exist … This dismissal meets the criteria for denialism, which refuses to acknowledge, and indeed attempts to discredit, scientific research,” the report continued.

The experts claim that there is evidence of rising infant mortality rates, soaring levels of HIV infection among drug users, the return of malaria, as well as a surge in the suicides from 2009 to 2011.

The austerity cuts by Greece's government and the troika have harmed public health in Greece and left 800,000 without access to healthcare or social security, mainly because they lost their public health insurance after being unemployed for more than a year.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis also stated that he did not consider illnesses like cancer to be "urgent, unless you are in the final stages".

The remarks fell after it emerged in Greek media that an uninsured cancer patient, Nikos Solomos, would have to pay €50,000 for a life-saving operation, out of his own pocket.

Georgiadis said that emergency cases are still being treated at public hospitals irrespective of insurance status. A €13 million fund for the most acute cases from money seized in a crackdown on tax evasion has been set up by the Greek government.

The eurozone debt crisis has forced some governments to drastically cut their public health budgets in an effort to contain deficits.

Greece was among the countries taking the toughest measures, but Spain and other countries such as France and the Czech Republic have also taken similar steps.

>> Read our LinksDossier: Austerity: Healthcare in hardship

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