Strong shift to state healthcare

Health Ministry data indicates a 30 percent increase since last year in the number of people visiting state hospitals for treatment, a development that experts from the sector link to the impact of the financial crisis on household budgets. The increase in visits to maternity clinics is believed to be even higher than 30 percent, while official data shows a 12 percent hike in visits to Social Security Foundation (IKA) surgeries. The Metaxa Cancer Hospital in Piraeus is one example of a state hospital that has seen a dramatic increase, especially at its surgeries and gynecological clinics. «In these difficult times, people have put their trust once again in the state health system and this should rise to their expectations by offering quality care,» said Athanasios Nisiotis, general secretary of the EINAP association of Athens and Piraeus doctors. Doctors working at private clinics told Kathimerini that people are so concerned about their finances that they would rather wait their turn for a checkup at a state hospital than pay to go private. «People are putting off preventive checks and prefer to wait a month or join a line than pay even 30 euros,» said one doctor who preferred to remain anonymous. A spokesman for the Athens Medical Association, Giorgos Eleftheriou, said the shift from private to state healthcare was no surprise. «Like all the other sectors of the economy, the private healthcare sector has suffered the repercussions of the crisis,» he said. Eleftheriou added that many of some 9,800 private clinics operating in Athens had laid off staff and that hundreds of these businesses would probably close down in the coming months.