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Friday, March 28, 2014

There is Money!! – But Not for the Uninsured



Press Release

There is Money!! – But Not for the Uninsured



“7.9 billion Euro given as a guarantee to two banks, but 700 million Euro cannot be found for the three million uninsured citizens”

It is impossibly difficult to hide one’s indignation when you hear that there is money to support banks, but finding funds for the lives of citizens is impossible.

At the end of this past December, - according to the Greek Governmental Gazette 3319(27/12 2013) and 3379 (31 /12 /2013) the Greek government has provided cover for bond guarantees amounting to €3,609,600,000 for Alpha Bank and €4,280,000,000 for Eurobank/Ergasias.  That is, the Greek state is guaranteeing a total of €7,9 billion which is added to the national debt of our country.

During the same period, the budget of the Greek Public Health System (ESY) was dramatically reduced.  The results of these severe cut-backs were reported in one of the world’s leading medical journals, “The Lancet”

Here are some of The Lancet’s irrefutable observations:

-                From the 2009 through 2010 one third of programs aimed at preventing and treating and drug abuse were abolished
-                During the same period, syringes and condoms distributed to drug users were decreased by 10% and 24% respectively, with expected results:  the number of new HIV infections in drug users increased from 15 in 2009 to 484 in 2012.  Preliminary data for 2013 indicates that tuberculosis rates have more than doubled from 2012.
-                The drastic reduction in municipal budgets have resulted in the reduction of a number of local initiatives such as programs to spray against mosquitoes which, in combination with other factors, has brought malaria back to mainland Greece for the first time in 40 years.
-                Through a long series of austerity measures, the Greek state’s budget for hospitals has decreased by 26% between 2009 and 2011
-                One of the Troika’s basic goals was to reduce public spending for medications.  The goal was to decrease expenses from 4.37 billion in 2010 to 2.88 billion in 2012 (the target was met) and to 2 billion in 2014.  However, this has come with unforeseen “side-effects”.  Some medications are impossible to obtain because of delays in compensation to private pharmacies (which are the main distributors of medication subsidized by the Greek public health system).  This has created unsustainable debt burdens for the pharmacies.  Additionally, pharmaceutical companies have stopped supplying certain medicines altogether because of unpaid bills and decreased profit margins.
-                In 2011 the cost of a visit to an outpatient clinic in the Greek public health system increased from 3 euros to 5 euros.  The co-pay amount for prescribed medication increased 10% or more, depending on the condition treated.  2014 saw a new fee of one Euro per prescription (regardless of the medication prescribed).
-                Mental health services have been seriously affected since funding from the Greek state has been cut by 20% between 2010 and 2011 and by a further 55% between 2011 and 2012.  Meanwhile, studies show an increase in cases of major depression from 3.3% in 2008 to 8.2% in 2011.  A significant cause for this is often economic hardship.  Additionally, attempted suicides have increased 36% from 2009 to 2011.  Deaths from suicide have increased by 45% in the years 2007 to 2011.  
-                The percentage of children at risk because of poverty rose from 28.2% in 2007 to 30.4% in 2011.  More and more children are malnourished.  The 2012 report of the United Nationals stressed that “the right to health and access to health services is not respected for all children in Greece.”
-                The latest available figures show a 19% increase in the number of under-weight infants between 2008 and 2010.  Researchers from the Greek National School of Public Health have reported a 21% increase in stillbirths between 2008 and 2011 which is attributed to reduced access to pre-natal health services.  Infant mortality increased by 43% between 2008 and 2010.  The increase in deaths indicates reduced access to timely and effective health care, both during pregnancy and after delivery.

The study in The Lancet concludes:
“….the scale and speed of imposed change have constrained the capacity of the public health system to respond to the needs of the population at a time of heightened demand. The foundations for a well functioning health-care system need structures for comprehensive accountability, effective coordination and performance management, and use of the skills of health-care professionals and academics—not denialism.
The people of Greece deserve better.

So, we ask the question – how is it possible for the state to finance banks with billions of euros, but think nothing of making dramatic cuts to the Greek public health system, education system, pensions and wages.  The Greek Minister of Health publicly admitted in parliament (on Friday, 7 March) that the total annual cost to provide access to the Greek Public Health System for the 3 million citizens who are presently outside it is only €700 million.  Why is it that the government can guarantee 7.9 billion for two banks, but can’t find 700 million to save human lives?
How can some “people” impose conditions that not only put lives at risk, but lead to needless deaths on a large scale?  Meanwhile, the ordinary people who have bowed to austerity measures in order to repay the country’s lenders find themselves increasingly cut off from the health system.  The powers-that-be choose to pour additional billions into the banking system which before the crisis had large profits of even more billions.  Doesn’t seem right, does it?

Note: 
The article of the newspaper “The Independent” which reports on the Lancet’s study can be found on our blog under “Foreign Press Reports”



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