Hundreds of Greek healthcare workers demonstrated on Tuesday to protest at working conditions and lack of manpower and equipment in public hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.
The demonstrations were staged to coincide with World Health Day, according to the federation of hospital personnel.
“You only saw us when we covered our faces,” proclaimed a poster printed by hospital trade unions, bearing a picture of doctors wearing anti-coronavirus masks.
Demonstrators at the large Evangelismos hospital in central Athens held up signs demanding job hiring, virus testing and hospital equipment.
Police tried to enter the hospital courtyard where the rally was taking place before being forced back by demonstrators, an AFP photographer said.
A similar protest was held at the main hospital in Larissa in central Greece, according to images from public television ERT.
Despina Tossonidou, president of the doctors’ union at Voula hospital in southern Athens, said that in addition to the hiring of medical staff, intensive care units in private clinics should be requisitioned “to overcome the shortcomings of the public sector” during the virus crisis.
Health care in Greece was drastically affected by the country’s 2010-2018 financial crisis and tough austerity required by creditors in exchange for bailouts.
As part of its measures to deal with the pandemic, the government has offered clinics 30 million euros ($32.6 million) and announced the hiring on short-term contracts of 2,000 doctors and 2,000 nursing staff.
“These measures are just a drop in the ocean,” said Tossonidou, a radiologist.
“The hospital system needs 30,000 additional permanent doctors,” she said, also citing the lack of protective equipment and COVID-19 testing in hospitals.
“The majority of tests are currently carried out in private hospitals at costs ranging from 150 to 300 euros ($163-326),” said Tossonidou.
Greece, a country of around 10.7 million people, has suffered relatively less than other European nations in the pandemic, recording 81 deaths out of 1,755 cases.