Hospital beds off limits

Some 150 beds in intensive-care units in the country’s hospitals are not operating mainly due to a lack of personnel, experts said yesterday, while costs incurred by Greece’s largest social security fund, IKA, have soared over the last four years. The president of the IKA workers’ group POSE-IKA, Christos Kokkalis, said that the fund’s annual pharmaceutical expenses from 2002 to 2006 jumped 73.5 percent to 1.3 billion euros. Kokkalis pointed out that businesses dodging their social security obligations by not reporting all of their employees are costing the system 1.8 billion euros per year. The lack of staff is said to be IKA’s biggest problem as out of a total of 12,448 positions, 3,570 remain unfilled. The head of IKA, Yiannis Vartholomaios, responded by admitting that there have been delays in hiring staff but stressed that some staffers are costing the system more that they should be. «There are those who work hard but there are also those who do not conform (to work commitments),» he said. Tight state budgets and personnel cutbacks are also hurting the operation of intensive-care units, according to a study prepared by Hellenic Society of Intensive Care. The study found that 150 beds have not been operating in the last two years in 66 private and public hospitals across Greece, while at the same time about 20 to 30 patients need a bed in intensive care every day. The lack of nursing staff and necessary equipment are keeping these beds off limits to patients, the study added. Based on international data, staff levels in intensive-care units are already low. In Greece, an average of 2.5 nursing staff correspond to every bed while international data show that the figure should be closer to four to six staff members. The report also noted that three in four respirators in state intensive-care units are more than 10 years old. Experts said that just 1.9 percent of the total number of beds offered in Greece are for intensive care, the lowest figure in the European Union.

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