Equipment waits for able hands

Dimitris Seremetis, chairman of the board of Attica’s Third Regional Health System, said his services had recorded cases where equipment was not used because there was no one on hand who knew how to operate it. Sometimes the equipment is immovable. «For example, a proposal to move an X-ray machine from Nikaia state hospital to the medical center in Salamina has to be evaluated as its removal will require building alterations that might cost more than a new X-ray machine,» he said. «The new hospital in western Attica, at Haidari, is about as well-equipped as a hospital can be but is waiting for recruitment of nursing and other staff through state examinations. It is also waiting on a decision by the Athens Medical School on which university clinics will be transferred there,» added Seremetis. «Another example are the intensive care units. At the Tzaneio, Thriaseio and Nikaia hospitals, not all of the intensive care beds are in use because of a lack of specialized staff. There are similar problems in Nikaia’s surgical wards and the Thriaseio’s cardiac unit,» he said. As a temporary measure, the regional authority is thinking of transferring staff between departments within the same hospital, always according to need, for, as Seremetis said, «We don’t want to open up fresh wounds while trying to heal others.» Other departments are working at half of their capacity, such as the pediatric wards at the Thriaseio and Aghia Varvara hospitals, because people prefer the two children’s hospitals in central Athens, Aghia Sophia and Aglaia Kyriakou. Seremetis thinks these problems should be considered within the general planning of health services and not resolved separately. A recent law (2889/01) has given the regional authorities the right to transfer equipment, clinics and even personnel from one hospital to another, in order to create comprehensive health systems that will provide the entire gamut of health services. Much is also expected of the new hospital administrators, who will have the power to do anything necessary to ensure the hospital runs smoothly. Infrastructure «Health Infrastructure 2000-2006» is an ambitious program that aims to confront the problem of equipment, staff shortages and failings, particularly in the emergency, intensive care and kidney dialysis departments, as well as laboratories and surgeries. The total budget has been set at 373 billion drachmas, 333 billion of which has been earmarked for hospitals and primary healthcare and 40 billion for developing computer technology in Regional Health Systems. National sources will provide 139 billion drachmas, of which 21 billion will go toward the medical requirements for the Olympic Games in 2004. Other supplementary funds are to come from the Health Ministry’s sector program (63 billion drachmas), Regional Operational Programs (129 billion drachmas) and the regular budget (2 billion drachmas).

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