EU-mandated spending cuts in the Greek healthcare system have brought the country decades back in time, with the new-born death rate jumping by 43% since the beginning of the crisis, according to Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a liberal MEP from the German FDP party.
The austerity policies, ordered by Greece’s Troika of international creditors, have worsened the socio-economic situation in Greece to a level not seen since the Second World War, Chatzimarkakis said.
The new-born death rate rose by 43% since austerity measures were implemented, he underlined.
Speaking at the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday (5 March) Chatzimarkakis, who is of Greek descent, said that what the EU allows the Troika to do in Greece goes against fundamental human rights.
“There are a lot of legal studies that tell us that the legal security of human rights, basic civil rights, are not given anymore. Mrs Merkel and Mr Barroso present to us another Greece, and not the real Greece,” the MEP said.
He added that the austerity policy was unlikely to change at the moment because the European People’s Party (EPP) was trailing behind the Socialists in the Parliament election polls.
“That possibly explains why austerity has to go on from the perspective of the politicians, but it’s not understandable given the dramatic facts,” Chatzimarkakis stated.
Next week in Strasbourg, the Parliament will vote on two reports, regarding the troika policy. One report has looked at the economic issues, and the other one is on the societal aspects.
In an recent 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 said that the Greek government was wrong when it claimed that public spending cuts have not damaged health.
Alexander Kentikelenis, a sociologist at King’s College, added that Greece had cut its health budget to 6% of GDP, meaning that it was now lower than any member state that had joined since 2004.
Since the crisis, the country has cut health programmes for vulnerable groups, for example drug use prevention programmes, which has caused a rise in HIV infections. Furthermore, the cuts have created long waiting lists, huge staff work loads and a rising number of uninsured people.
Greece is now also relying on volunteer doctors from human rights groups to work ad hoc, Kentikelenis said.
Kostas Nikolarakis from the Panhellenic Medical Committee in Greece said that hospitals did not function properly anymore, with the biggest problems seen in the largest Greek cities.
“Europe’s heart beats in Brussels. 3,000 kilometres away though, the heart of the Greek citizens is breaking,” Nikolarakis said. “We didn’t come here to ask for mercy, but to show that this is not just a problem of health, but a humanitarian and social problem and this is how it should be looked at. We want a social Europe for the people.”
Chatzimarkakis said that he wanted to take the issue of the Greek healthcare problems to the Ombudsman and the Council of Europe as fundamental rights are no longer protected in a member state of the EU.