CCTV Correspondent Filio Kontrafouri
The economic crisis in Greece has left thousands of people with no access to public healthcare. But the hardship has also bonded Greeks. Many, in a show of solidarity, have created volunteer medical centers.
This boy is yet another young Greek that has no access to public healthcare, and here is the only place where his family can turn for medical care.
The Metropolitan Community Clinic, tucked inside of former US military base at the suburb of Elliniko. People from all over the country come here. It only provide services to those who are unemployed, uninsured or poor, and this is free.
Yiannis Marangos, a dentist at Elliniko Metropolitan Community Clinic, said, "The mission of this medical center is based on volunteerism and on people’s will to offer to their fellow citizens. Our motto is ’no one is alone during the crisis.’"
The clinic relies solely on donations of medicine and medical supplies-and on the hard work of its 100 volunteers. The municipality pays the utility bills. Doctors here estimate that right now, at least 40% of Greeks are either uninsured or cannot get public healthcare, and the trend is likely to grow.
Cardiologist Giorgos Vichas said, "With the new measures, they say that those insured will pay a bigger participation for medicine, for hospitalization and you can understand that with the cuts in salaries and pensions, even those insured won’t be able to pay for an exam or get hospitalized. So I’m afraid that the humanitarian crisis we already witness among those uninsured will become tremendous because it will affect almost every Greek."
When the clinic first opened less than a year ago, it cared for about five people a day. Now, close to 50 line up on a daily basis-from pregnant women and malnourished children to those requiring emergency care.
Giorgos Vichas said, "A woman needing to urgently go to the hospital is now inside with a colleague, a cardiologist. She is uninsured, poor, she has a serious heart problem. She has suffered a stroke, she has high blood pressure. No hospital is admitting her unless she pays."
Greece’s overall public healthcare system is on the verge of collapse. Public hospitals are under-staffed and under-supplied. The government owes millions of dollars to pharmacies and medical staff. And doctors walk off the job every week to protest further cuts in salaries and hospital budgets expected to exceed well over one billion euros.
The new spending cuts will create even further problems in the public healthcare system. And that means that even more Greeks will depend on volunteer medical centers like this one to get the healthcare they need.