The charges made by POEDIN (Panhellenic Federation of Hospital Workers) President Michalis Giannakos and the president of OENGE (Federation of Greek Hospital Doctors’ Associations) Panagiotis Papanikolaou regarding ICU beds allegedly being set aside for VIPS – the wealthy, the powerful, and the well-connected – have stirred a political maelstrom.

The government responded that if there is evidence of such actions there must be an investigation.

Papanikolaou told the Kontra new outlet that “there could have been far fewer deaths until now” and presented data from 6 September.

“Let [Health Minister Thanos] Plevris and Alternate Health Minister [Mina] Gaga tell us the number of patients who were intubated and died outside an ICU while on a waiting list. They have never told us. That is something that all parties must ask themselves more stubbornly each afternoon,” he said.

“Health ministry data (EKAV-EKEPI) indicate that there were 154 intubated patients on a waiting list for an ICU bed…Dr. Gaga said that she announces the total number including those intubated outside of ICUs,” he said.

He charged that in Thessaloniki many patients are being treated in “bogus ICUs”. Ministry data show that there are 595 intubated COVID-19 patients being treated in regular ICU beds and 120 outside of ICUs.

“On 27 November, the health minister in a written statement said there are 1,300 ICU beds in the National Health System and noted that he had reserved at least 350 ICU beds at private hospitals and clinics. That makes a total of 1,650 beds. Subtract the 595 intubated ICU patients and there remain 1,055 ICU beds.”

“Health ministry data indicate that on 6 December COVID-19 ICU beds were 125 percent occupied (595 in ICUs and 120 outside). However, the ministry data say ICUs are 98.9 percent full.”

“This is an unabashed lie and open admission that specific clinics run by university professors are setting ICU beds aside. In what other country could a government stand while telling such crude lies, at a time that dozens of our fellow human beings die every day and others are fighting for their lives outside of ICUs?” Papanikolaou asked.

‘A real scandal’

Giannakos also spoke of “Reserved ICUs”. He said the number of public and private hospital ICU beds combined is 1,250, of which 300 are private sector hospital beds for non-COVID-19 cases. “They use many of them for their needs and do not give them to the NHS. There are 950 ICU beds at public hospitals. Of these, 647 are offered up for Covid cases. On Tuesday there were 600 patients (some intubated and some not) in ICUs. Even if they were all intubated, out of 714 there remain 114 intubated patients outside of ICUs.”

“There are 647 ICU beds set aside for COVID patients, and 43 of them are empty. Why are they empty when we have 114 patients intubated outside of ICUs? They set them aside for special situations like politicians, Metropolitan bishops, and so forth. Right now there are two empty ICU beds at the KAT hospital. Why not place there a couple that are 58 and 59 years old who are intubated outside the ICU in Nikaia Hospital? About 80 percent of COVID-19 patients die outside of ICUs. It is a real scandal. The judiciary should have already intervened,” he underlined.

Thousands fewer doctors than last year

“This year we have 9,000 fewer healthcare workers than last year,” he stressed.

An estimated 7,000 doctors and healthcare workers have been suspended without pay for refusing to be vaccinated.

“In 2020 we already knew that we would need more ICU beds. There were many grants. We did not manage to operate them due to a staff shortage. It is criminal, instead of bolstering the NHS in the pandemic you weaken it,” Papanikolaou said.

He said it is obvious that of the 154 COVID-19 patients being treated outside an ICU and on a waiting list, one will not find a bishop, a publisher, a minister, or a former President of the Republic,

“Have you ever over the last years heard of a famous person being kept out of an ICU for hours? Would it not have become known? Such things are for common mortals. Usually, the gatekeepers of ICUs and of surgery departments are specific university professors in the court of the government, people who advise the PM,” he asserted.