Psychiatric hospital staff walk out

Nursing staff at the Dromokaiteio Psychiatric Hospital in western Athens yesterday went on strike to protest chronic staff shortages that are leaving hundreds of patients inadequately supervised and said they would stage rolling 24-hour strikes every Monday and Thursday until the government makes good on promises to hire additional staff. The workers, who staged similar action last summer, also threatened regular blockades of the busy Iera Odos at the peak times of 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to draw attention to their predicament. According to Michalis Giannakos, the head of the workers’ union, the hospital is woefully understaffed with only 800 of 1,400 staff positions filled. As a result, in some wards only one nurse is available for every 30 patients. Workers complain that many patients are kept in gurneys in the hospital corridors due to a lack of space and that young patients are kept in the same wards as the elderly. They also express fears that illnesses are thriving due to overcrowding. Giannakos told Skai that a hostel had been bought to accommodate some of the patients but there were not enough workers to staff it. Another problem is that several psychiatric units in Athens hospitals, including the Thriaseio, Attiko and Sismanogleio, have been forced to close. As a result, the number of patients entering the Dromokaiteio is on the increase. Hospital workers also condemned the lack of any comprehensive program for the social integration of patients once they have been treated. The leader of main opposition PASOK George Papandreou yesterday accused the government of ignoring the need for crucial infrastructure for the country’s mentally ill citizens. Papandreou said the government had brought the country «back to zero» following years of progress in mental health program reforms.

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