The results of the initiative to utilize private sector doctors in the National Health System (ESY) to meet increasing demands arising from the coronavirus pandemic have so far been meager, Kathimerini understands.
Although many doctors did indeed respond to the Health Ministry’s call for assistance, especially in Thessaloniki, where ESY is starting to buckle under the immense pressure, the lack of critical specialties – in many cases due to the brain drain of the last decade – rendered the exercise almost futile.
In light of the situation, a circular is expected to be issued for volunteers, while the Health Ministry has not ruled out a policy of forceful recruitment of private doctors if deemed necessary.
The initial call for assistance was made by the Health Ministry on November 10 and the invitation was extended by the medical associations to their member doctors.
The relevant ministerial decision was issued in the Government Gazette 10 days later, outlining specific specializations of doctors that are needed – physicians, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, pulmonologists and general practitioners.
Tellingly, in Thessaloniki, the majority of the 170 doctors that responded to the call did not have the necessary specialization, with only eight finally signing a contract, according to a Health Ministry source.
Some of those who did not sign up, the same source said, had asked for part-time work, which is not provided for in the terms of the contract, or did not want to go to Covid clinics, while some just changed their minds.
The president of the Panhellenic Medical Association, Athanasios Exadaktylos, complained of government delays in preparing the contract for the doctors, but also opposition by ESY unionists to the use of private doctors.
Until Tuesday, just 21 doctors had expressed interest in the platform activated by the Medical Association of Athens, of whom only six had the specialisations outlined in the ministerial decision.
Speaking to Kathimerini, the association’s president, Attica Governor Giorgos Patoulis, said there will be a new call issued to doctors, while also announcing the possibility of the Attica Regional Authority providing a subsidy (as an additional incentive) to private doctors who will need to temporarily suspend the operation of their practices to go to ESY.