The recent tragic accident in the Vale of Tempe, in which 21 schoolchildren lost their lives, drew attention once again to the low priority given to highway safety, but another significant parameter in the number of road deaths is the way accidents are handled. «There is no appropriate infrastructure or framework for dealing with a road accident,» said Assistant Professor Andreas Karabinis, director of the General State Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU). In Athens, just four hospitals – the Geniko Kratiko, Evangelismos, KAT and Asklipieio, Voula, which have a basic infrastructure – are called on to deal with most of the road accidents that occur in Attica but also in Western Greece and the Aegean islands. Greece has more traffic accidents than any other Western European country, and therefore the largest number of injuries and deaths. According to Karabinis, the number of accident victims, including those left with some form of disability, could be much lower if the vital, triple system of «ambulance-emergency unit-ICU unit» operated effectively. He said the state ambulance service (EKAB) suffered from a shortage of vehicles and a lack of specialized units. The length of time before accident victims are picked up is getting longer, and crews are often not properly trained. The ambulances that arrived on the scene of the accident at Tempe did not have doctors aboard; they should also have had mobile units capable of providing medical help on site. There are virtually no emergency departments in hospitals, while ICUs do not function properly, even though traffic accident victims comprise the majority of patients admitted to them. Karibinis said data from the ICU at Geniko Kratiko indicate that 1,204 people had been admitted over the last five years. «The average length of hospitalization in the ICU is 15 days and the average patient age is 45. Mortality is 28 percent. About 77 percent of patients have suffered head injuries, of which 35-40 percent are road accident victims, of an average age of 35-45. The Geniko Kratiko’s ICU unit has 12 beds, although the ideal would be 16-18, with another 10 beds for high-priority care. Yet we are not lacking in technology compared with ICUs abroad,» he said. The hospital’s management is planning to set up a new ICU in time for the Olympic Games next year.