Greece threatens to fire unvaccinated health workers

The political debate in Athens heated up last week, when a leaked study conducted by leading epidemiologists Sotiris Tsiodras and Theodoros Lytras found that out of the 3,988 deaths examined, 1,535 were “attributable” to the high load of intubated COVID-19 patients, to being outside an ICU. [Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis]

The Greek minister of health is likely to fire health workers in the national health system who insist on not getting vaccinated. The move was criticised by the opposition parties while a study on the lack of ICUs has caused political turmoil in the country.

In September, the measure providing for the suspension of work for unvaccinated health personnel took effect, resulting in the suspension of 10,000 health personnel from work.

The move caused severe staff shortages in the public health sector, and health minister Thanos Plevris signed an amendment allowing them to return to work if they received a first dose of the vaccine.

Some did get the vaccine, but some 4,000 health workers remain unvaccinated.

Speaking at the Greek parliament on Wednesday, Plevris set 31 March 2022 as a deadline for them to get vaccinated; otherwise, the government will consider firing them.

Those who are now suspended should know that as long as the pandemic lasts, they will be suspended,” he said.

He added that the state authorities cannot wait more for them to be vaccinated.

“They will have to be vaccinated, otherwise they will not be able to provide their services in the National Health System. It is now clear that vaccination is for the benefit of society, so anyone who wants to provide health services should be vaccinated.

The opposition parties criticised the move saying the conservative government has completely lost the control of the pandemic.

According to ECDC, 64.3% (67.8% EU average) of the total population has so far been fully vaccinated while 26.5% of Greeks have also taken the booster.

But the Mediterranean country is facing a big number of daily COVID-related deaths.

The Reuters Institute says 4,520 new infections are reported on average each day and more than 20,000 people have died due to COVID since the beginning of the pandemic.

The study that caused turmoil

The political debate in Athens heated up last week when a leaked study conducted by leading epidemiologists Sotiris Tsiodras and Theodoros Lytras found that out of the 3,988 deaths examined, 1,535 were “attributable” to not being in an ICU when they should have been, due to the high load of intubated COVID-19 patients.

The epidemiologists said they had handed over the study to government officials and they were, therefore, informed about the need to increase the ICU capacity of the national health system.

The government replied, claiming it never received the study.

Under pressure by the opposition to invest in ICUs, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis had said earlier this year that there was no study showing a difference in mortality between people who are intubated inside and outside the ICU.

(EURACTIV Greece)

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