GREECE: NHS and Coronavirus by Katerina Matsa
As public hospital staff denounces, outbreaks of coronavirus are far more than officially announced.
NHS has collapsed. There are no respirator masks, tests, hygiene material in general, the staff is not sufficient to meet the needs of the pandemic. Virus screening tests are now only carried out when the patient is in serious condition, and those with 390 euros can go to the private sector, even when the symptoms are mild!
At the moment, when everyone recognizes the need for the NHS and its catalytic role in the lives of the population, the shortages are dramatic. There are no beds in Intensive Care Units, as 100 remain closed due to lack of staff. Primary Health Care Units are missing that could contain a large volume of cases to reduce hospital pressure. Following the closure of IKA centers by Adonis Georgiades under the Samaras government, the primary care caricature attempted by the SYPIZA government by institutionalizing TOMYs failed to fill the gaps. Health funds remained cut off at the behest of lenders and the health budget line remained at 5% even with the government of SYPIZA!
Following the evolution of the epidemic in different countries we find that the lower the rates of national health budgets, the more serious the situation is, the greater the risks to human life.
For example, in neighboring Italy, where there are thousands of dead, the budget for Health is only 6.8%. Shortages in ICU beds and staff have become tragic, leading physicians to apply an informal eugenics system, intubating only the youngest, most likely to survive!
A similar dramatic situation exists in Spain, where policies under the memorandum and neoliberal experiments have undermined Public Health. According to the El Pais newspaper, between 2010 and 2018, the number of health workers decreased by 5,300, while the population of Madrid increased by half a million in the same period!
The same is true in Britain, where huge shortages in ICU beds, staff and equipment do not allow the NHS to bear the brunt of the pandemic.
It's no coincidence that Prime Minister Boris Johnson rushed to warn citizens that every family is going to lose loved ones because of the coronavirus!
The austerity policies imposed by the European Commission create hundreds of victims. Typically, from 2011 to 2018, the Commission has asked EU member states 63 times to cut spending on Health and to privatize. As the Aris Hadjistefanou, Journal of the Editors, reports (14-15.3.2020), the first EU pressure measure concerned raising the retirement threshold and the second austerity in Health.
In this context, Greece annually reduced health spending by 8.7% per year from 2009 to 2013. This has resulted in dramatic reductions in the salaries of doctors and other staff, the freezing of recruitments and, in addition, the departure of thousands of doctors abroad, the famous brain drain. As a result, health care stuff in all sectors has dropped from 104,000 to 76,000, with 20% now working with flexible working hours.
Today the fight with the coronavirus is completely uneven and takes place only thanks to the self-sacrifice of doctors and other staff. In the face of this situation, the Prime Minister makes fun of us, saying that all necessary measures have been taken to protect the lives of the people of the country, and the Prime Minister's wife demands that we go out to the balconies and applaud the doctors of the NHS (!), While the Minister of Health (the person who dismissed doctors and nurses from hospitals) calls on doctors to respond to the announcement of 2,000 posts in the NHS. There is no greater hypocrisy.
As OENGE complained, out of the 2,000 posts announced, 1,500 relate to nursing and other staff, and there is not even an auxiliary doctor, while those whose terms of office expire are only extended for 4 months! There is also no commitment to hire the staff needed to open the 100 ICU beds immediately. The reactionary government of the Right, which does not dare to confront the ecclesiastical establishment, is unstoppable in policing the population. Based on the PND for the epidemic, business centers are being set up in General Police Headquarters, under the supervision of the Minister of the Police Chrysochoides, to track contacts of confirmed cases!
Instead of strengthening the health system, the police state is strengthened in every way. So the coronavirus itself enters the service of biopower.
In the climate of pervasive fear that is systematically cultivated and with the universal mandate 'stay at home' the population is pushed into isolation and passivity, while at the same time the Parliament remains open to pass the most reactionary bills, for the prohibition of demonstrations, retirement at 72, etc.
It is clear that the capitalist system is sinking into its own crisis in a state of global chaos. Today's pandemic of the coronavirus confirms that this system is now incompatible with the life of humans itself. Its overthrow is a direct necessity, a condition of the existence of the whole of humanity.
[ Published in newpaper NEA PROOPTIKI (New Perspective) 21-03-2020 ]