Stark contrasts in hospitals

At seven of Attica’s hospitals, patients are lying on camp beds in corridors, a familiar, tragic sight in Greek hospitals. At others, however, there are empty beds, often four times as many as the number of camp beds at the other hospitals. Even within a single hospital, only certain clinics have camp beds in corridors. These are some of the main conclusions drawn by the Ministry for Health and Social Solidarity in a survey, completed on June 25, at 25 hospitals in Attica by the ministry’s Bureau for Planning, Research and Programming: Every day, there are an average of 154 patients in camp beds in corridors at seven of the hospitals. Empty beds at the other hospitals total as many as 623 on a given day. The seven hospitals facing these problems are the Evangelismos, with an average 66 camp beds a day, the Laiko (32), the Athens General State (22), the Red Cross (16) and the Thriasio (9). As for the Nikaia State Hospital, the situation has improved to a point where there are only up to six camp beds on a given day, with an average of another three at the Askleipeio Hospital, Voula. On the other hand, there are 241 empty beds on average every day at the Sotiria, 94 at the Tzaneio, 97 at the Sismanogleio, 106 at the Attiko at Haidari, 102 at the Amalia Fleming, 78 at the Pammakaristos, 72 at the Alexandra, 56 at the Aghia Olga, 53 at the Aghios Savvas and 51 at the KAT. Duty rosters The greatest problems occur on days when a particular hospital is on duty for outpatients and emergencies. At the Evangelismos, for example, an average of 100-130 stretchers were used to admit patients on every day of the survey. Most patients are admitted between 10 a.m. and noon, as well as late in the afternoon. There appears to be a certain preference for specific clinics. Over half of the camp beds at the Laiko are in the 1st Pathology Clinic. At the Evangelismos, most are in the 3rd 4th and 5th Pathology clinics, with 18.5, 11.3 and 9.7 percent of the hospital’s camp beds respectively, followed by the cardiology-thoracic surgical unit with 7.85 percent, neurosurgery with 7.61 percent and the psychiatric unit with 6.82 percent. There are camp beds in the psychiatric units of most of the seven hospitals, a result of the incomplete restoration of earthquake damage at the Attica Psychiatric Hospital in 1999. Most patients who come to hospitals on duty days come on their own, with only 25 percent being brought in by ambulance. Most of the latter are serious cases and are admitted as in-patients. Understaffed «Camp beds in hospitals are a phenomenon that has appeared over the past 20 years,» according to Deputy Health and Social Solidarity Minister Thanassis Yiannopoulos. «The problem has become particularly acute over the past 11 years as efforts to resolve it have been spasmodic.» Yiannopoulos claims that some of the reasons for the phenomenon are to be found in the way the hospitals’ duty rosters are organized, understaffing (particularly among nursing staff) and the area in which the hospital is situated. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of doctors specialized in emergency care, a lack of communicaiton between directors of clinics, a particular hospital’s reputation, the way the admissions office functions, delays in diagnosis and therapy, long waits for surgery, and operational problems in provincial hospitals that result in many patients being referred to the major cities.