Lives 'at risk' due to lack of ICUs

More than one in five units have shut down due to cutbacks and lack of staff

Patients’ lives are being put at risk because cutbacks have led to more than 20 percent of Greece’s intensive-care units shutting down, with more expected to close in a few months, Hellenic Society of Intensive Care Medicine head Apostolos Armaganidis warned on Wednesday.

He told journalists that 154 out of some 700 ICUs have shut down and that about 50 more are expected to close at the start of next year when the short-term contracts of 120 nurses and 50 doctors are due to expire. Armaganidis said that between 30 and 40 people in Greece are in need of an intensive-care unit every day. He said that some patients are no longer able to find a place in an ICU, almost doubling the probability that they will die from their ailments.

Armaganidis, also an associate professor of intensive care at the Athens University Medical School, said that the state of Greek ICUs had fallen back to the levels of 2009, when there was an effort to support them because of the swine flu outbreak. “Hirings stopped, a lot of contracts were not renewed, many of those who left were not replaced and today we are right back at the point where we started,” he said, adding that a lot of intensive-care doctors have moved abroad.

Greece has a low number of ICUs compared to the European Union average. In Greece, there are five units per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 11.6 for the EU overall. Austria, Luxembourg and German have an average of about 20 ICUs per 100,000 citizens.