Residents of Greece’s remote islands in the eastern Aegean, who have been suffering a shortage of doctors and ferry connections to the mainland as a result of cost-cutting measures, now have better access to primary healthcare thanks to a charitable donation by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for two state-of-the-art mobile medical clinics staffed by 16 volunteer doctors specializing in different key fields.
Launched on January 17, the mobile units’ first stop is far-flung Kastelorizo, 125 kilometers east of Rhodes, before they move on to Amorgos, Kasos, Astypalaia, Patmos, Folegandros and Sikinos.
“The aim is to cover the medical and diagnostic needs of 55,000 residents on 35 islands,” the scientific supervisor of the scheme, Panayiotis Koulouvaris, an orthopedic surgeon, told Kathimerini. “Over the next five years we will visit the islands at six-week intervals and stay at each stop for between five to eight days.
“Quite a few residents thought it was a joke when they first heard of the mission,” Koulouvaris added.
Traveling ahead of the doctors was a team of electricians and plumbers who made all the necessary repairs to existing clinics that have been neglected due to budget cuts so they are in full working order.
The two mobile units are fully equipped with some of the latest equipment in diagnostics, such as a digital mammogram system and a bone densitometry unit.
“Patients are informed in advance of the dates when we will be visiting their island and can book an appointment electronically,” said Koulouvaris. “One of our objectives is to ensure that all women have mammograms and Pap tests and all men have their prostates checked, together, of course, with a general checkup.”
Patients can also keep in touch with their doctors once they have moved on to a different location as the mobile units are equipped with a database that will include every patient’s personal file as well as a communication system.
When the units are in Attica, they will continue to receive patients at the Olympic Village Hospital in Varibombi, north of Athens. Those insured with the National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY) have to pay a small fee of 3 euros, while in cooperation with the NGO Praksis, doctors will also schedule visits to homeless shelters and immigrant centers.