The National Health System (ESY) is in a critical state, Health Minister Andreas Xanthos admitted in an interview with Kathimerini, as it emerges that hundreds of hospital departments and clinics are on the point of closure.
“A large number of clinics have barely enough staff, so the smallest loss could upset the balance,” Xanthos said.
According to official figures, there are more than 20,000 vacant doctor and nursing positions across the health service. The government has heralded the recruitment of 3,400 people through 2016 but those hirings will ease rather than solve the crisis.
Of the 20,239 vacancies, 6,197 are doctors’ jobs and 14,042 are nursing positions.
According to the union representing state hospital employees (POEDIN), nearly half the country’s health centers are not operational as their staff have been relocated to state hospitals in a bid to plug gaps. The situation on several Greek islands is particularly dire with some, including Corfu and Icaria, lacking key specialists.
A major problem perpetuating the deadlock is the fact that more than 20,000 ESY staff have retired since the start of the crisis; thousands more have not had their contracts renewed (with another 700 contracts set to expire at the end of the year). A steady exodus of workers seeking better opportunities abroad has compounded the problem, the minister said.
“We must convey the message that young doctors can have a decent future,” Xanthos said.