OPINION

Great inequalities, great contrasts

great-inequalities-great-contrasts

In the much-discussed and misinterpreted study by professors Sotiris Tsiodras and Theodoros Lytras, there is one element that even those who did not know with certainty suspected as accurate: Mortality in ICU beds in Attica is lower compared to the rest of the country. 

As we read in Kathimerini on Thursday, patients who were intubated in hospitals in Attica had the greatest chances of survival. The probability of death increased by 35% for patients in Thessaloniki and by 40% for patients in the rest of the country.

Geographical disparities in the provision of health services are nothing new. The Greece “outside of Athens” is as old an expression as it is always present. There are manifestations of life outside the capital that seem to have frozen in the 20th century and not to have crossed the threshold of the new era. Great inequalities, great contrasts.

In recent years we have become accustomed to hailing the exceptions: innovative ideas from people living in the provinces, the young scientists returning to their hometowns to set up model businesses and exemplary tourist units, applying pioneering methods in the production and packaging of olive oil, or in the cultivation of vines, utilizing raw materials, promoting local products, proposing dynamic solutions in technology, and the economy in general, the entrepreneurs who have a vision for their city, who install modern high-tech units, offering work and specialization to young people.

What if these people, scattered around the mainland and the islands, whom we admire and praise, get sick and need healthcare? What if, even worse, they need a bed on an intensive care unit? Should they be transferred to Attica or, at least, Thessaloniki, to avoid having their chances of survival drastically reduced?

The pandemic heartbreakingly exposed the slow pace of improvement and inactive good intentions. It didn’t reveal anything we did not know, but rather something we didn’t bother to correct for decades. It is not the miserable, clientelistic, politicking of “every city with a hospital, every village with a university.”

It is that the national healthcare system outside Athens remains, for the most part, unprepared, in terms of equipment and trained personnel to face either this pandemic or the next one.