With a deepening global economic crisis, Greece has been the site of increasing austerity and dramatic budget cuts to essential social services such as welfare benefits, education, and public health care. Public hospital administrators have responded to this situation with layoffs, suspensions, furloughs, hiring freezes, overloading employees and speeding up care, withholding pay and even forcing workers to repay wages they already received. In some cases, patient loads have quadrupled. Additionally, hospitals are running out of supplies and electronics and computers are breaking down and left in a state of disrepair. Many pharmacists have begun only accepting cash, no longer certain that they can expect to be reimbursed by insurance. Most recently, the Greek government has been imposing fees for what used to be free services. Meanwhile, wages among Greece’s most impoverished layers have dropped 30-50% in the last few years, leaving many without any health care options whatsoever. This situation will sound familiar to many of us New York and raise questions about the road the future of the American health care system.
But the Greeks are fighting back. For months, Greek health care workers have been setting up independent free clinics and occupying hospitals. Most recently, Greek doctors, nurses and other health care workers went on strike with 90% participation nationally. Florence Johnston Collective supports this and other actions Greeks are taking to survive and ensure access to quality health care for all.