Doctors without orders

Possibility

From The Optimist Magazine

Summer 2014

 

“We will once again give you the facts that show that our secretary of health, Adonis Georgiadis, is lying systematically and shamelessly.” This statement is flaunted on the home page of the Metropolitan Community Clinic, in Athens. Not exactly the words you would expect from a health facility. But then, this is no average health facility. The Metropolitan is a “social clinic,” where all the doctors and assistants commit themselves for a period of at least two years to provide free health care to uninsured sick people. And right now there are a lot of those in Greece.

Cardiologist Giorgos Vichas is the inspired founder and director of the clinic. Two and a half years ago, when he looked around and saw what the economic crisis meant for more and more patients, he decided
to start providing free health care. He rallied a number of his colleague friends, and together they started their clinic in the southern part of Athens.

Next door to the clinic is a derelict basketball stadium with a rusty corrugated iron roof full of holes. Opposite stands a lone barracks behind high barbed-wire fencing. The only cheerful tone in these desolate surroundings is the clinic’s logo above the door: four colorful dolls in a circle holding one another’s hands. The door is open. Inside, at least ten people are waiting. Two counter assistants are busy on the phone. Off and on, people from various rooms
come to the counter with papers and boxes of medicine. The phone rings nonstop.

Here, Vichas heads a team of some 100 doctors and 150 assistants. Many of them have a paid job apart from this work; some are jobless. The Metropolitan harbors all kinds of specialists: eye doctors, gynecologists, physical therapists, orthopedists, psychologists, cardiologists, dentists. The clinic offers diagnostics and medical treatment. On top of that, the chronically ill can come back for medication, follow-up examinations or psychological support. Since the clinic started up, some 25,000 patients have been treated. The Metropolitan accepts no financial donations. An understandable decision, given the recent revelations of multi-million-dollar frauds by some Greek NGOs. “If someone drops in offering a hundred thousand dollars,” says Vichas in his treatment room, “I write down on a piece of paper what our needs are and tell them, ‘Here you are—go and buy it wherever you want and bring it to us.’ That’s how donors get to know us and will get to know the patients we’re helping.”

Most of all, the clinic needs medicine, which is also received through donations. When there was a lack of expensive drugs for cancer, an appeal through social media inspired numerous relatives of deceased patients to bring in the leftover drugs of their loved ones.

If pharmaceutical companies want to donate drugs, they can, but the clinic won’t give publicity as compensation. When one large private clinic offered to take care of all vaccinations for children in exchange for the mention of their name on all publications by the clinic, it was turned down. Then—“with the help of the clinic’s little guardian angel,” co-initiator Maria Rota smiles—came a phone call from a Greek lady in Switzerland who
offered to pay for all the vaccinations without any public acknowledgment.

Two years ago, there were only a handful of these clinics in Greece; now there are over 40. And they’re still very necessary. Because the country’s health insurance system is linked to work, the dramatically high unemployment figures have had the effect of a bomb blast. According to the Greek Statistics Office, the unemployment rate is 27 percent, and the vast majority of these 1.3 million unemployed have been jobless for over a year. After a year, not only is the unemployment benefit stopped, but so is health insurance for family members.

Hospitals give free treatment in emergencies only. As soon as an uninsured patient occupies a bed, the meter starts to run. When you are uninsured, your broken leg will be set free of charge, but after a tumor has been removed, it’s impossible to leave the hospital right away, and you’ll get the bill. Unpaid bills are sent to the tax collection office to be settled—if necessary by laying claim to your house.

The Metropolitan clinic is open to all who can prove they’re uninsured, but in recent months it has also been called on by insured patients who, as a result of budget cuts, can’t get their medicine from the state hospitals. That’s why the role of these “social doctors” has been viewed with some skepticism—because they’re doing the government’s work. Psychologist Rota gets almost militant in response to this charge. “Of course we don’t want to be here. But what should we do? Let people drop dead because the government is not doing its job?”

For months now, Vichas has been trying to get the support of the Department of Health to supply all the necessary care for the uninsured. “Politics are not moving in the direction of helping the uninsured,” Vichas fears. “What we will see as a result of the reforms is a downright tragedy. Unfortunately, we will definitely still be needed here in our clinic.” | Tex Rijnders

Solution News Source

Doctors without orders

Possibility

From The Optimist Magazine

Summer 2014

 

“We will once again give you the facts that show that our secretary of health, Adonis Georgiadis, is lying systematically and shamelessly.” This statement is flaunted on the home page of the Metropolitan Community Clinic, in Athens. Not exactly the words you would expect from a health facility. But then, this is no average health facility. The Metropolitan is a “social clinic,” where all the doctors and assistants commit themselves for a period of at least two years to provide free health care to uninsured sick people. And right now there are a lot of those in Greece.

Cardiologist Giorgos Vichas is the inspired founder and director of the clinic. Two and a half years ago, when he looked around and saw what the economic crisis meant for more and more patients, he decided
to start providing free health care. He rallied a number of his colleague friends, and together they started their clinic in the southern part of Athens.

Next door to the clinic is a derelict basketball stadium with a rusty corrugated iron roof full of holes. Opposite stands a lone barracks behind high barbed-wire fencing. The only cheerful tone in these desolate surroundings is the clinic’s logo above the door: four colorful dolls in a circle holding one another’s hands. The door is open. Inside, at least ten people are waiting. Two counter assistants are busy on the phone. Off and on, people from various rooms
come to the counter with papers and boxes of medicine. The phone rings nonstop.

Here, Vichas heads a team of some 100 doctors and 150 assistants. Many of them have a paid job apart from this work; some are jobless. The Metropolitan harbors all kinds of specialists: eye doctors, gynecologists, physical therapists, orthopedists, psychologists, cardiologists, dentists. The clinic offers diagnostics and medical treatment. On top of that, the chronically ill can come back for medication, follow-up examinations or psychological support. Since the clinic started up, some 25,000 patients have been treated. The Metropolitan accepts no financial donations. An understandable decision, given the recent revelations of multi-million-dollar frauds by some Greek NGOs. “If someone drops in offering a hundred thousand dollars,” says Vichas in his treatment room, “I write down on a piece of paper what our needs are and tell them, ‘Here you are—go and buy it wherever you want and bring it to us.’ That’s how donors get to know us and will get to know the patients we’re helping.”

Most of all, the clinic needs medicine, which is also received through donations. When there was a lack of expensive drugs for cancer, an appeal through social media inspired numerous relatives of deceased patients to bring in the leftover drugs of their loved ones.

If pharmaceutical companies want to donate drugs, they can, but the clinic won’t give publicity as compensation. When one large private clinic offered to take care of all vaccinations for children in exchange for the mention of their name on all publications by the clinic, it was turned down. Then—“with the help of the clinic’s little guardian angel,” co-initiator Maria Rota smiles—came a phone call from a Greek lady in Switzerland who
offered to pay for all the vaccinations without any public acknowledgment.

Two years ago, there were only a handful of these clinics in Greece; now there are over 40. And they’re still very necessary. Because the country’s health insurance system is linked to work, the dramatically high unemployment figures have had the effect of a bomb blast. According to the Greek Statistics Office, the unemployment rate is 27 percent, and the vast majority of these 1.3 million unemployed have been jobless for over a year. After a year, not only is the unemployment benefit stopped, but so is health insurance for family members.

Hospitals give free treatment in emergencies only. As soon as an uninsured patient occupies a bed, the meter starts to run. When you are uninsured, your broken leg will be set free of charge, but after a tumor has been removed, it’s impossible to leave the hospital right away, and you’ll get the bill. Unpaid bills are sent to the tax collection office to be settled—if necessary by laying claim to your house.

The Metropolitan clinic is open to all who can prove they’re uninsured, but in recent months it has also been called on by insured patients who, as a result of budget cuts, can’t get their medicine from the state hospitals. That’s why the role of these “social doctors” has been viewed with some skepticism—because they’re doing the government’s work. Psychologist Rota gets almost militant in response to this charge. “Of course we don’t want to be here. But what should we do? Let people drop dead because the government is not doing its job?”

For months now, Vichas has been trying to get the support of the Department of Health to supply all the necessary care for the uninsured. “Politics are not moving in the direction of helping the uninsured,” Vichas fears. “What we will see as a result of the reforms is a downright tragedy. Unfortunately, we will definitely still be needed here in our clinic.” | Tex Rijnders

Solution News Source

SIGN UP

TO GET A Free DAILY DOSE OF OPTIMISM


We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously. Privacy Policy