Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis claimed on Friday that he was punched in the face and subjected to chants about the Civil War when he visited Attiko Hospital in Athens on Friday to meet with staff and management.
Georgiadis, who has made a number of visits to public hospitals in Athens since taking on his job in the recent reshuffle, was greeted by a small but angry crowd protesting healthcare cuts when he arrived at the hospital. Police had advised the minister to use the rear entrance but he refused. A cup of coffee was thrown toward Georgiadis, who claims that he was then punched as he attempted to speak with protesters and had to be escorted into the hospital by riot police.
The minister alleged that some protesters chanted about Meligalas, a town in the Peloponnese where communist forces defeated collaborationist security battalions in 1944, leaving more than 700 people dead, including many who were executed. Georgiadis referred to the protesters as “a bunch of fascists” and suggested they were supporters of the anti-capitalist party ANTARSYA.
The incident was condemned by the hospital’s management, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, PASOK and Democratic Left. “Such actions undermine social dialogue, target democratic institutions and debase public life,” said PASOK.
Kedikoglou repeated the claim about the Meligalas chant in Parliament but SYRIZA’s Nikos Voutsis questioned the veracity of the accusation, saying the government spokesman was “fanning the flames.”
The hospital workers’ union slammed the presence of riot police in the hospital, calling it an “unprecedented invasion.” It said Georgiadis was a persona non grata, accusing him of “undermining public health” by closing hospitals and firing staff.
The incident overshadowed the wider problems facing the health sector such as staff shortages, unpaid salaries and deteriorating working conditions. Georgiadis has proposed transferring 1,250 hospital staff to other positions and turning several hospitals into health centers that offer limited services. So far, he has not commented on paying doctors, who are owed between 1,500 and 7,000 euros each in unpaid wages.