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Greek health services crumble

- by Jeremy Guest

Tourists could face high medical bills as Greek Islands health services crumble and medical cover shrinks.

Tourist visitors to some of the more remote Greek islands may face problems if they fall ill. Cutbacks in health services and less frequent ferry services mean that finding treatment is getting harder every day. Local people are already complaining at the lack of medical cover and problems in getting hold of vital drugs for treatment.

Only this month, islands that have found themselves without a permanent resident paediatrician include Paros, Patmos, Kythira, Kythnos and Pserimos while pharmacies are expected to close down completely soon on Kea and Kastellorizo.

Even large islands are suffering from cutbacks in health services with island such as Kos suffering under staffing at medical centres and even major hospitals.

And fewer ferry connections make it difficult for people to visit doctors or to get the drugs they need.

A typical case is the island of Lemnos where islanders and visitors must take the ferry to the neighbouring island of Mytilene for drugs and treatment, a journey time of more than six hours.

Worse still, there are only three ferries each week and they only run if weather permits. The Deputy Mayor of Kastellorizo says the island is unable to provide even essential services.

He adds: "It is possible for a person to have to travel to Turkey for an aspirin as the island pharmacy has been closed for 20 days. Because of bad weather, for 10 days we were without even a boat."

On Patmos the overworked island physician has resigned in protest and the island health centre has not has a permanent paediatrician for five years. On Agathonisi the resident doctor leaves at the end of April and so far there is no application for the vacant position.

Now fears are growing that without proper medical services tourists may decide against holidays in the Greek Islands this year.