Greek hospital workers’ union raises alarm after death of Vivienne Taylor, 74, on island of Kalymnos earlier this month
The death of a British tourist on a Greek island has been blamed on the “desperate state” of medical facilities in Greece, which pose a serious risk to tourists in need of emergency healthcare, the country’s union of hospital employees has warned.
The union said holidaymakers face the danger of doctors struggling with shortages, and raised the alarm after the death of Vivienne Taylor, 74, on the island of Kalymnos earlier this month.
Taylor died in an incident attributed to the absence of ambulance availability at night.
“This is a case of a British tourist dying needlessly because of the desperate state of medical facilities on Greek islands,” said Michalis Giannakos who heads the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees (Poedin). “The lack of doctors, basic equipment, ambulances and supplies poses a huge threat to thousands of tourists and of course our own citizens.”
Foreign visitors who encountered emergency health problems outside big cities, on islands or in mountain areas, were at “the mercy of God” he said.
Taylor, from Whitby, Oxfordshire, was part of a group travelling on a yacht when she began to complain of chest pains late at night. When an ambulance was requested from the local hospital she was informed none were available at night and that she would have to go to the hospital by private means.
“She was forced to wait until a farm truck could pick her up and take her, which wasn’t until 2am and by that time it was too late,” Giannakos told the Guardian. “This is what happens if you have the misfortune to fall sick at night on an island like Kalymnos. It is absurd when it has 16,000 permanent residents and around 50,000 during the summer.”
Doctors said Taylor could have been saved if an ambulance with the proper equipment and personnel had got to her in time.
More than 3 million UK tourists visit Greece every year. Few public sectors have been hit by budget cuts as hard as Greece’s health system during the course of the country’s prolonged economic crisis. Shortages are widespread, the result of cuts demanded by the EU and International Monetary Fund in return for emergency bailout funds to keep the debt-stricken country afloat.
In rural areas cardiologists are almost non–existent along with X-ray machines and other basic equipment.
Last year a Briton in need of surgery on a badly broken leg was removed from an ambulance and placed on a stretcher among cars on a ferry as he was transferred from the island of Paxos to Igoumenitsa on the mainland.
“The ambulance didn’t have a ticket for the boat so he was left on a stretcher in the ferry in its car park before being picked up by another ambulance on the other side,” said Giannakos. “Such incidents make a mockery of us internationally.”
Health ministry officials acknowledged that even Santorini and Mykonos, part of the famous Cyclades island chain and among the most popular tourist destinations in the world, lack intensive care units. The islands attract more tourists than any other part of Greece.
theguardian.com – Helena Smith in Athens