Hospitals hobbled by shortages

Greek public hospitals, which owe more than 1.5 billion euros to suppliers, are experiencing shortages of basic equipment, officials have told Sunday’s Kathimerini.

“We are seeing shortages in syringes, cotton and surgical gloves, which are being solved either by staff who borrow from other hospitals or with small-scale orders from suppliers,” said Thomas Zelenitsas, the head of the employees’ association at the Geniko Kratiko hospital in Athens.

Other hospitals in Athens and Thessaloniki have reported similar shortages. The AHEPA hospital in Thessaloniki was forced to temporarily close some of its outpatient departments due to a lack of equipment.

At the Kratiko Hospital in Nikaia, near Piraeus, doctors and nurses say that there is a serious shortage of surgical gloves, gauzes and syringes.

“We have had a huge problem with cheap consumable goods in the last few months,” said neurosurgeon Panayiotis Papanikolaou. “For example, with syringes, you just grab any size you find in front of you. Even if you need 10 ml and there’s only a 20 ml one, you just use that.”

At the Attikon Hospital in Athens, there are insufficient vials to collect blood for lab tests. It is one of six hospitals that suppliers have refused to provide any more material to until they settle their debts.

State hospitals currently owe 1.58 billion euros to suppliers. These debts date back to 2010. The largest chunk, about 800 million euros, is owed to suppliers of medical equipment, while another 130 million is owed to companies that provide consumables, such as syringes and gauzes.

Public hospitals are budgeted to receive 2.1 billion euros this year to cover operational costs, including payments to suppliers.

“The shortages of a range of medical equipment are worse than ever experienced before,” said the head of the Athens Medical Association, Giorgos Patoulis. “This is forcing dozens of hospitals to reduce procedures, while those that are keeping a proper service going depend on the efforts of their staff.” 

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