Health workers in Greece protested at 28 hospitals around the country on Tuesday, against their right wing government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. It was a challenge to the Tory-type government’s claim to have handled the crisis well, with strict lockdown measures.
And it was an antidote to the message of unity behind the government’s measures, reinforced by the once-radical Syriza party.
After more than a decade of devastating austerity, enforced by Labour-type Pasok, Tory-type New Democracy and Syriza-led governments, health workers say they’re at breaking point.
The protests, organised by health unions, demanded increased funding for hospitals, personal protective equipment, and direct and free access to health care and tests for all.
They also wanted a ban on redundancies, abolition of subsidies to private health firms, and the right of all health workers to take special sick leave.
Thenia Aslanidi, a doctor at the Erythros Stavros hospital in Athens, said, “At Erythros we are now reaching a tipping point. Personnel shortages mean frightening pressure."
“The climate is explosive. Those who examine patients for coronary heart disease are dressed in special uniforms and cannot even go to the toilet for twelve hours, because there is no other uniform or anyone to replace them."
“It’s the same situation for paramedics who don’t even carry thermometers in ambulances, to people who have to clean rooms without masks, extra gloves or shoe protectors.” The Greek government has congratulated itself for the country’s relatively low coronavirus death rate.
The climate is explosive. Those who examine patients for coronary heart disease are dressed in special uniforms and cannot even go to the toilet for twelve hours, because there is no other uniform or anyone to replace them."
Police have issued fines worth more than £3 million for violations of the lockdown measures.
But health workers say attempts to cover for years of austerity measures—which include examining suspected patients outside hospitals and surgeries—are putting lives at risk.
Louisa Gika, a doctor, said, “The measures taken by the government are dangerous. “The struggle for mass recruitment of permanent staff at all levels of health, the demand for equipment and self-protection measures for health personnel, can save us from the criminal policy of the government.”