System for training in medicine is ailing

Overcrowded clinics, hospital and laboratory facilities scattered throughout the city, and students struggling to obtain basic training have made the modernization and organization of Athens University’s Medical School an urgent necessity, according to university doctors. The school’s academic staff demand that clinics be concentrated in a single hospital complex at Goudi – which entails the handover of the Laiko Hospital to the University of Athens. Assistant Professor K. Constantopoulos of the Athens Medical School’s Pathology Department told Kathimerini that in recent years the school has been swamped by large numbers of students wanting to train – more than it should have had by international standards. For instance, at the First Pathological Clinic of the University of Athens, housed in the Laiko Hospital, the ratio of fourth-year students to hospital beds was, until last year, seven to one. This year, it has shot up to 15 to one. It would be a lucky student who managed to get near a patient in such a situation, said Constantopoulos. There were problems meeting training needs due to the large number of students, Christos Kittas, dean of the Athens Medical School, confirmed. There were 550 students each clinical year at the school and 150-200 new students enrolled every year, a number tripled by transfers from other schools. Some classes, for example lung diseases or ophthalmology, are more overcrowded than others, with a ratio of one lecturer to 50 students. The Laiko Hospital suffered from the worst ratio of beds to students. Now that academics and the government are engaged in talks over work-related issues, it is a good time, Constantopoulos feels, to raise the issue of upgrading the Athens Medical School. In contrast to other schools, such as those of philosophy, physics and mathematics, the buildings have hardly been altered since the start of the last century. A permanent demand for university doctors is the development of a university hospital complex along the Laiko, Aeginiteio, Aretaio and Alexandra hospital axis, with the total incorporation of the Laiko into the university. Constantopoulos pointed out that «the land on which the Laiko Hospital is built belongs to the university. In the early 1930s, it was handed over to the Ministry of Health with the aim of building a hospital that would house the Medical School which would then be returned to the university. The contract to return the land and the hospital was signed in 2001, but the relevant provisions have not been applied and 55 percent of the hospital continues to consist of National Health System clinics.» According to Constantopoulos, the medical training program would undergo a radical improvement once the Laiko Hospital was fully incorporated into the university. Student doctors would then go straight from their basic studies into daily medical practice, a system in force in many medical schools in Europe.

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