Greece: 17 interlinked clinics/infirmaries that provide access to medical services for free

Further cuts in health care in the amount of 1.5 billion euros were decided as part of the new austerity package. The decision was accompanied by massive protests. It affects tens of thousands of patients who cannot afford any health insurance or the expensive co-payments. Many tragic stories of e.g. people with cancer or MS who have been denied treatment which are now commonplace in Greece, get lost in accounts of the foreign media when they report on international bailouts, called-for reforms and corrupt politicians.

We have been active with the Infomobil (http://infomobile.w2eu.net/) for quite some time in Greece and have now also begun to position ourselves – in addition to providing information and support of, with and by refugees – with projects that provide everyday solidarity against the so-called „crisis management“. This step was proceeded by the consideration that we could hardly limit ourselves to the situation of refugees and migrants given the current circumstances in Greece, when an alignment of rights currently consists in the fact that the Greek population is disenfranchised, as well. Also, it is important to develop solidarity contacts with self-organised structures on a practical level and to learn from them.

That is why we met with the doctor Giorgos Vichas in the social medical practice in Elliniko in Mid-November. We wanted to find out which concrete forms of support were needed. The clinic in Elliniko was one of the first self-organised clinics in Greece. They started ten months ago and were surprised by the speed of developments: the demand is growing rapidly, at the same time, participation and support is unexpectedly high. “Solidarity today is like a virus that does not need to be treated”, Giorgos Vichas told us. Meanwhile, the clinic provides medical services for 60-70 people a day. It has an associated pharmacy in which donated drugs are distributed.

Today there are 17 interlinked clinics/infirmaries spread across Greece that provide access to medical services for free for those without health insurances and also for people with insurances who cannot afford the co-payments.

The clinics are not purely charitable, they have a political approach. One of the priorities is at the moment to successfully fight for access to health care in public hospitals for the uninsured. On Thursday (November 15 2012), an important step was taken: the self-organized polyclinic in Elliniko announced in a press release that one of the big Athenian hospitals had agreed to cooperate with them and would from now on officially treat uninsured people, as well. The answer from the Ministry of Health came instantly: on the same evening it was announced that there would be restructuring and new appointments in the hospital management of Athens.

Against this background, an important support could be if doctors and better: hospitals in other European countries would also announce publicly that they would treat Greek patients. The Greek clinics would appreciate broad-based declarations of solidarity on a symbolic level in order to help them fight for the right to health care on the European level, too, given that the cuts to the Greek healthcare system are a direct consequence of the austerity dictates of the Troika. Speedy action would certainly be required because the struggle is currently acute in Athens and it would be desirable to have outspoken declarations from other countries that would also be used for publicity campaigns.

They also currently collect individual cases of cancer patients who have suffered a massive deterioration of their disease or have died as a result of a lack of care. They want to take action before the European Court of Human Rights using these (meanwhile as much as ten) cases. Here, also, support would be necessary at the right time in order to inform and mobilize public opinion.

The clinics are very interested in exchange. We told them of Medinetz-centres in Germany (even though we are not directly involved in such structures). We told them of the fact that since the beginnings in the 1990s in the meantime, at least in some cities, medical consultation hours for undocumented migrants and people without health insurances have been established, that there has been a shift in clientele and that more and more EU citizens, mostly from Bulgaria and Romania, make use of these offers. They are very interested in the experiences gathered in projects like these in other countries, especially concerning the building of political pressure for comprehensive health care.

In addition, practical support is of course an issue. Even though solidarity within Greece is great there are difficulties, especially in getting hold of cancer drugs and expensive medical equipment. A list of materials required can be found in the annex.

As Infomobile we involved ourselves at this point – however, we would much prefer if the call for solidarity would take on a life of its own, if others would take up this call, circulate it widely and become active themselves. We can offer that a person in Athens can step in if direct communication via E-Mail should prove difficult. In this case you are welcome to get in touch with Chrissa Wilkens (Email: chrisawilkens@gmail.com).

We also know people who have, among others, good contacts to Thessaloníki and therefore also attach the translation of an interview with a doctor from the Thessaloníki project. The interview appeared (in German)  in the latest issue of „Graswurzelrevolution“ (Grassroots Revolution). It explicitly goes into the approach of expanding solidarity structures in everyday life. If you can think of others that might become active in this line – be it groups, individual clinics and/or doctors – it would be great if you would forward this material to them.

Kind regards,

Infomobile

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