New study reveals growing health crisis in Greece

By George Gallanis
27 February 2020

Greek workers face a growing health crisis amid attacks on the public National Health System (ESY).

Years of austerity measures have plunged large swathes of workers and youth into poverty and unemployment. A new study published by the non-profit research agency, diaNEOsis, paints a devastating picture of the malignant effects on the health of workers and their ability to access health care.

The study notes, “The difficulties of accessing and using health services have grown particularly for those who need them most, thus jeopardising the element of equality and social justice.”

Titled “A New National Health System,” the study found one in five Greek people are unable to pay for health services when they need it; one in three cancer patients are unable to see their doctor regularly while one in four have difficulties obtaining the medicine they need; and six out of ten diabetic patients have difficulties paying for their diabetes care.

This is made worse by growing illnesses among Greek workers, a byproduct of austerity measures. Almost one in four Greeks has some form of chronic disease, seven in ten are obese or overweight, four in ten are “physically inactive”—i.e., do not engage in any kind of exercise.

The study states Greece spends 5 percent of its gross domestic product on public health care versus the European Union (EU) average of 7 percent. The Panhellenic Medical Association stated last year that “the minimum safe limit for every health system, as we have repeatedly stressed, is 6 percent of GDP.”

Meanwhile, the situation facing 9.7 percent of Greek families that spend money on health care is described as “catastrophic”—as it exceeds a certain proportion of the income, meaning that they cannot afford health care.

The authors of the study ascribe the health care crisis to cuts to funding, understaffing and mismanagement—the source of which is linked to a decade of austerity measures.

The pseudo-left Syriza government slashed health spending over its four years in power. Its 2019 Ministry of Health budget was €3.9 billion (€500 million less than the 2015 budget when Syriza first came into power) and around half the amount of health spending in 2009. This was the year prior to Greece signing the austerity “bailout” programme with the EU, International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank “troika,” which led to years of devastating attacks on living standards.