The union representing Greece’s public hospital workers (POEDIN) has issued a damning report in which it accuses the Health Ministry of putting patients’ lives at risk by failing to make use of European Union funding to upgrade the country’s flagging fleet of ambulances.
In the report published on Monday, PEODIN says that the number of ambulances awaiting repairs in the Greek capital outnumber those in active service, adding that with 60 ambulances available during the day to cover the entire city, Athens has half the number required by international standards.
The situation is similar in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, where just 22-23 ambulances are available to serve the city’s population of around 800,000, whole another 18 vehicles are awaiting repairs.
The report also cites several occasions where patients’ lives were put at risk either because of poor maintenance or a shortage of paramedics. In September, for example, an ambulance transferring a patient from the southern Peloponnesian town of Kalamata to Athens had a flat tire along the way and had to wait several hours for a replacement. On Wednesday on the island of Skiathos a municipal worker with no paramedic experience was summoned to transfer a patient to the local medical center, while in Dimitsana in the Peloponnese, the local health center’s only ambulance broke down while carrying a patient last week and has yet to be replaced.
“The depots of every ambulance service (EKAV) in the country have become graveyards, with ambulances lying dead or decrepit because of a lack of maintenance,” the report says. “On average, these ambulances have traveled 600,000 to 900,000 kilometers. They break down along the way and have even caught fire while transferring patients.”