Doctors, nurses and personnel in short supply at island medical centers

Medical centers on Greece’s islands are facing serious shortages of doctors, nurses and other personnel, particularly in advance of the anticipated crowds of summer holidaymakers. In some cases, up to 60 percent of official posts are vacant. According to the authorities, actual shortages are much higher, given that many medical centers are seriously understaffed. According to data collected by the Southern Aegean’s First Regional Health Department (DYPE), just 56.3 percent of staff positions in the Cyclades have been covered, that is, 448 of the 796 available positions. The highest percentage is on the island of Paros, with 88.3 percent of the 48 jobs filled, and the lowest on the island of Ios, where just 11 people are working at a medical center that is supposed to have 31 staff members. Meanwhile, 19 temporary doctors are also serving in the Cyclades along with 75 interns and 23 specialists. According to the head of the Southern Aegean’s DYPE, Dr Panayiotis Evthyvoulidis, the problem mainly involves non-medical personnel, although in the Lesser Cyclades the problem is the lack of doctors. Just seven National Health System doctors are working at the 15 regional polyclinics. «The Health Ministry is recruiting 20 nurses and 34 other staff members for our needs, which will make a total of 120 non-medical personnel, including those previously recruited. Last September, we advertised for 60 positions for National Health doctors and expect this process to be completed by December,» he said, adding that this should fill 79 percent of available posts. Evthyvoulidis also referred to the way medical centers are organized. «These medical centers date from the 1980s, when people’s needs could be met with one eight-hour shift. Since then, medical science has progressed and both permanent and holiday-season populations have increased, requiring shifts around the clock,» he explained. «We submitted our proposals for extra departments at the clinics to the Health Ministry last February,» said Evthyvoulidis. DYPE’s head of human resources, Vassilis Kyritsis, told Kathimerini that the region’s health services include the hospitals on Rhodes, Kos and Kalymnos, the Leros State Hospital, four medical centers and nine regional polyclinics. «We are trying to set up new departments in these centers since the medical services provided by our hospitals have grown to the extent that they can no longer be covered by existing personnel. The greatest shortages are among nursing staff. For example, at Rhodes Hospital only 10 positions are vacant, but in recent years, the number of hospital beds has increased disproportionately.» Another problem in the Southern Aegean is the great distance from mainland Greece, a deterrent to many potential staff members, particularly specialists. «A neurosurgeon would have to do at least two operations a week to keep up with his or her peers,» explained Kyritsis. There are also shortages on the Ionian Islands. According to data from the regional DYPE, at the five general hospitals, one psychiatric hospital and eight medical centers, 184 of the 301 positions for National Health doctors have been filled, and 681 of the 1,137 nursing positions, while there are 427 positions for paramedical, administrative, technical and other staff. There are 78 specialists, 96 interns and 21 temporary doctors. The head of the Ionian Islands’ DYPE, Spyros Spyrou, said that on a daily basis 20 percent of staff were absent for various reasons, such as sick leave. «Our needs have been noted and the vacant posts are to be filled. Of course, speed is often sacrificed to the need for transparency and objectivity as set out by recruiting procedures. I believe that good management and greater efficiency would be the solution to our problems,» he concluded.

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