25,000 new staff in four years

An acute problem besetting hospitals is the lack of staff, particularly of nurses. Controlling supplies and restricting waste will save funds – about 500 million euros a year with the measures proposed – that could help finance the recruitment of extra staff needed in hospitals. As was highlighted by the president of the Hellenic Federation of State Hospital Workers, Stavros Koutsioubelis, 25,000 new staff need to be employed in four years to fill the positions required, 15,000 to 17,000 of them nurses. As regards doctors, 5,000 more are required, 1,000 of them in hospitals in the Attica basin. In discussing recruitment over the last few years, Koutsioubelis spoke of «two lost budgets.» No new hospital places were advertised in 2004 and 2006. In 2005 4,500 staff positions were announced, 1,861 of which were for nurses. The minister pledged another 4,500 positions in 2007 in a recent meeting with the federation. «In other words a total of 9,000 positions in four years,» said Koutsioubelis, who stressed that «this number does not meet current needs since every year between 1,200 and 1,300 personnel retire.» The staff shortage means the hospitals cannot operate at full capacity. As Koutsioubelis pointed out, «in the decade from 1994 to 2004, hospital infrastructure increased by 70 percent, but staffing increased by only 18 percent.» This state of affairs affects the quality of health services provided and working conditions for personnel. Patients’ relatives often have to stand in for nurses, and in the evening and at night a nurse is often asked to look after 40 patients. Waiting lists for specialized exams get longer, and medical technological equipment cannot operate over a double shift to meet citizens’ requirements. As a result, the staff members get burned out. In several hospitals workers’ unions have sent an extrajudicial notification to hospital management to inform them of the problems due to staff shortages and to warn them that the hospitals are functioning below security levels.