The Saddest Thing You'll Read About Greece Today

hospital purple

Photo: The U.S. National Archives on flickr

The Greek debt crisis has literally become a matter of life and death.Reuters reports that the Greek health care system is cracking under crisis pressure, leaving many Greek citizens without access to basic medical services and vital drugs. Pharmaceutical companies have even begun crafting emergency plans that would get drugs into the country in the event of a complete currency fallout. 

And it’s not just well-visits and painkillers. People who need the care most—cancer patients and other life-threatening cases—just aren’t getting the care and drugs they need. From Reuters:

“We’re not talking about painkillers here – we’ve learned to live with physical pain – we need drugs to keep us alive,” Mitta, a petite former marathon runner and herself a cancer survivor, said in a voice shaky with emotion.

That’s not to say that Greek’s pre-crisis health care was perfect. The country’s health system has long been plagued by inefficiency, but it’s only getting worse. 

Greeks have long had to give medical staff cash “gifts” to ensure good treatment. Nevertheless the health system was considered “relatively efficient” before the crisis despite a variety of problems including a fragmented organisation and excess bureaucracy, according to a 2009 report for the organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Public hospitals have even begun to reuse soiled sheets because they can’t afford a new set for each patient. “It’s tragic” radiology specialist Kiki Kiale tells Reuters, “but there’s no other solution.”

And things may only get worse in the short-run. Austerity orders from the IMF have demanded that Greece reduce its healthcare expenditure to under 6% of GDP, down from 10% of GDP as it currently stands. 

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