Islands struggle with shortage of doctors

Even in areas with high tourist traffic such as Tinos, Paros, Ios, the gaps are bandaged over

Islands struggle with shortage of doctors

As the Easter holiday season starts in Greece, many of its islands, large and small, are grappling with shortages in doctors and medical personnel. 

A case in point is the island of Limnos in the northeast Aegean, as it has been left without an anesthesiologist since noon on Monday. For some time now, the island’s only anesthetist has been on sick leave, and the vacancy had been filled by a doctor transferred from another health unit in the country.

“The island will be without an anesthetist throughout the Easter holidays at least, as was the case for 15 days at Christmas,” Konstantinos Katsigiannopoulos, psychiatrist and director of the National Health System (ESY) at the island’s hospital, said in comments to Kathimerini. The absence of an anesthesiologist, he said, creates a domino effect for many functions of the hospital.

But such problems are not only confined to Limnos. On Monday on Kos, the two pathologists who had been sent to the island’s hospital left. The hospital has not had a permanent pathologist for a year and gaps are covered by transfers.

According to the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees, the picture a week ago was a pretty bleak one.

On Santorini, the only 72-year-old anesthesiologist had resigned and the hospital was still without a pathologist, while after a year without a cardiologist, two doctors of this specialty arrived. On Tinos, cases were being examined by a pediatrician as there was no pathologist.

In Naxos, the health center had no gynecologist, while a radiologist only attended to emergency cases. The health centers of Ios, Andros, Milos and Paros had no microbiologist and on Amorgos the only doctor is a cardiologist. The hospital of Kefalonia only had a pathologist while the ICU is not working due to lack of doctors.

The Health Ministry recently announced vacancies for 854 permanent medical staff positions. Of these, 41 are for Aegean island health units and 13 are for staffing hospitals on the Ionian islands.

Recently, it announced an addition to regular salaries of 1,800 euros per month to doctors and 1,200 euros to nurses and other staff who move temporarily to island health units.

The Panhellenic Medical Association is calling for a complete modernization of the law on doctors’ incentives to attract and retain doctors on the islands. 

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