By Matina Pagoni*

We [the Association of Athens-Piraeus Hospital Doctors (EINAP)] had held a meeting with Health Minister Thanos Plevris, raising in a timely manner the issue that scheduled surgery at hospitals must not be once again suspended.

There are many patients who have been left behind, and there is already a three-month or four-month backlog of appointments.

From that vantage point, it is clear that one does not have the ability in terms of time to postpone surgeries, and at the same time one cannot transform the National Health System into a system for the management of a single-disease [COVID-19].

It is no coincidence that, taking into account the anxiety of non-COVID patients, this past summer we made a huge effort to treat as many patients as was possible.

However, there is no excuse this winter. When surgery must be performed, it is crucial to schedule and complete it in a reasonable period of time. There should not be a distinction between emergency and non-emergency cases. The needs of all patients must be met without distinction.

It must also be understood that neglecting other diseases increases the general indices of heavy illness and mortality.

It is impermissible for the medical community to be exposed before its patients. Many people ask us if they should go to the private sector [hospitals and clinics]. Is it acceptable for us to be confronted with these sorts of dilemmas and disputes?

Indeed, it is a fact that patients are forced to seek treatment at private clinics every time National Health System surgery rooms are shut down.
A positive element is that following the backlash from EINAP, we received clear assurances from the administration of the First Public Health Region of Attica that there will not be surgery cut-backs, such as the one enshrined in a new directive to reduce scheduled surgery by up to 80 percent.

We await similar moves and clarifications from the administration of the Second Public Health Region of Piraeus and the Aegean.

In any event, it is necessary to take further measures to stop the spread of the pandemic virus in the community.

The situation today is exceptionally difficult. Citizens who have neglected to get the COVID-19 vaccine must understand that it is crucial for them to do so immediately, without delay.

Moreover, it is critical to conduct strict checks on implementation of public health measures and to conduct massive COVID-19 testing. The hard indices regarding deaths and intubations demonstrate that the only “salvation” is to reduce the number of new infections in the community.

Otherwise, our country will continue to be rocked.

The endurance of the National Health System is not infinite, nor is that of doctors and healthcare workers who stubbornly and with self-sacrifices are keeping the system on its feet.

By the same token, citizens by now should already be trained as regards the protective measures they must take – such as the wearing of masks and even double masks when in large crowds.

Certainly, if it is deemed necessary there will be more measures to stem transmission of the virus, such as requiring a negative COVID-19 rapid test for unvaccinated customers to enter supermarkets.

*Matina Pagoni is president of the Association of Athens-Piraeus Hospital Doctors (EINAP) and coordinating director of the Third Pathology Clinic of the Gennimatas state hospital