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Greek Health Ministry to Deliberately Cut Pensions of Patients at Psychiatric Clinics

 I can’t believe what I am reading here. And this I can tell you right away: It is one of the most horrible nightmares, when a state exploits those who cannot defend themselves and deliberately proceeds to actions that should be illegal in any democratic country. 

Money-broke Greek Health Ministry is about to cut pensions of patients of psychiatric clinics and use the ‘saved’ money to bolster operating costs. The plan foresees the reduction of patient’s pensions on a sliding scale, with pension of 500 euros to be cut 50%, pensions of 700 euros by 70% and pensions of over 700 euro to be trimmed down by 80%. 

Clinics personnel oppose the ministry’s plans saying that they’re asked to turn into revenue collectors as they will have to get the consent of these patients so that the sick health ministry puts its long arm into the income of such patients.

Open is the question what consent patients with heavy psychiatric illnesses will or could give or who will protect their rights.

 Nurses’ ire over patient pensions

A state plan to reduce the pensions of patients of psychiatric clinics and use the money to bolster operating costs, which was reportedly prepared by the Health Ministry last year but is yet to be enforced, has triggered protests by employees at the units who claim they are being obliged to collaborate in securing the patients’ consensus for the cuts.

The plan foresees the reduction of patients’ pensions on a sliding scale, Kathimerini understands, with pensions of 500 euros to be cut 50 percent, pensions of 700 euros by 70 percent and pensions over 700 euros per month to be slashed by 80 percent.

It remains unclear whether the plan is in fact legal. “It goes against Article 21 of the Constitution, on the protection of health,” Vassilis Papadopoulos, a lawyer familiar with the matter, told Kathimerini. “It violates the principle of equality and proportionality as it withholds money on a graded scale as is the case with the tax offices,” he said, adding that the changes also ignored the “nursing needs of different individuals.”

As the pension holder’s consensus is required before the amount can be withheld, workers at the clinic claim they are being put in a difficult, and unethical, position. “We are people whom the patients look to and trust,” said Panos Papadopoulos of the union representing staff at psychiatric clinics. “Now we’re being asked to become revenue collectors,” he said. (Kathimerini)

It is not clear from the article whether the plan to forcefully ‘deprive’ psychiatric patients from their rights and income has to be voted and approved by the Greek Parliament as a bill. Of course, it would need the cooperation of insurance funds as well as from other ministries like Labour (for pensions) and Finance (income tax declaration).

PS where is this PASOK health minister, who prepared such a plan? He probably sits at the back seats of the parliament, an average MP among others…

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  1. Just tell patient to say no and it ok right?

  2. A society will always be judged on how it treats its most vulnarable members. Whoever came up with this scheme actually belongs in a institution for the criminally insane.
    Officially, the government cannot simply take the “contribution”. Consent must be given, but as the recipient is officially anyway “insane”, consent must come from the guardian or next of kin. Expect a terror campaign on the families of patients to “obtain permission”. and the careres should indeed not be lamped with this burdern, and should flatly refuse to cooperate. According to the EU Greece has a great record in 2non-cooperation” when it comes to collecting and paying taxes, so this should not pose too much of a problem.
    As for the source, I have no doubt what so ever that this is a TROIKA dictat. Greek (and Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, etc) politicians are nothing but puppets on the TROIKA string. And all they do is dance when told to dance, nothing more, nothing less. They are given the tune and the moves, and no diviation is permitted.
    Face-saving speeches etc are allowed, straight faced lying to the people is encouraged, but “the plan” must be followed, at all costs, in to it’s minutest detail. Banks Uber Alles, and make no mistake, unless the people say “No”, it will always be “yes”. That’s what spineless governments do…

  3. For what, apart from the costs of their treatment there, do patients in psychiatric institutions need money at all? What can they buy in those clinics, design clothes, Champagne or Kaviar? Be realistic, the decision to use those pensions for iimproving the financing of the operational costs makes sense. And the loud protests of the staffers sparks the supsicion that it was them who pocketed that money so far.

    • keeptalkinggreece

      I don’t think it is so simple. Do such patients stay there for the rest of their life? supposedly the ministry gets 50% of their pension, then the patient will have to claim it back after clinic discharge. with the Greek bureaucracy??? it can take 2 years to solve such an issue… An who says that a patient needs 250 e/month in operational costs but another 490 e/m etc? Furthermore, in public psychiatric clinics go people with low to medium income. Rich go to private, of course.

      • Damn, I just wrote a lengthy response, only to forget doing the spam protection. Once again. Grrr.

        Can you recover my comment from a spam collection, kt? And could you pls ask the website admin for a solution to this problem, next time you talk to him or them? I’m 100% certain there’s a way to set up WordPress to get back to the comment after the spam protection has been triggered. Other WordPress sites don’t have that problem.

    • The assumption that people in a psychiatric institution are all totally incapable of anything and will stay there forever (and therefore need no money) is proof that you have absolutely no idea what you are on about.
      Firstly, most people in a psychiatric institution should not be there in the first place, it’s convenience for others, non in the least the state, that usually lands them there. With the necessary input from immediate family, friends and the wider community, and guidance from professionals, most mentally ill people are quite capable of living in the community and actually have a life.
      Secondly, the vast majority of people who do unfortunately land themselves in such an institution do leave it again, most of them totally addicted to the drugs they were given instead of proper treatment. If nothing else, they will need money to buy those drugs, commonly referred to as “medicine”.
      Thirdly, your reasoning opens the door to a much more sinister practice, commonly referred to as “commitment”.

      who is to stop a government from using the above practice as a means of “fund raising”?

      • The assumption that many people in psychiatric institutions should not be there shows that YOU don’t know what you’re talking about, Ephi. The stance towards such clinics changed decades ago, and nowadays, at least in civilized countries you have to be a threat for yourself or others to be kept there, even temporarily. Even nutcases have a right to freedom, after all. The courts don’t take that away easily.

        From talks with a schizophrenic (who is under state paid healthcare, of course), who has been temporarily in a psychiatric institution several times, I know a bit about such clinics. The patients there really need the treatment and shouldn’t be on the streets on their own. Even those who are getting better and allowed to leave the building can’t spend much money in the immediate surroundings, and don’t have to, since their basic demands are covered. So, why shouldn’t those patients who have a pension contribute to the costs of their treatment? That’s only reasonable, especially in the cases of the long term inmates. Should their pensions be left anused on the accounts, so that the heirs get a nice heyday? WQhile the taxpayers have to pay for all the costs? Come on!

        Get used to the fact that Greece is broke and can’t afford any generosity, really.

        • keeptalkinggreece

          “Even those who are getting better and allowed to leave the building can’t spend much money in the immediate surroundings, and don’t have to, since their basic demands are covered” -where? in Germany?

        • Before going any further with this, let’s get one thing very clear. The very diagnosis of mentally ill or mentally healthy is a serious bone of contention amongst many professionals, including the most emininent professors of psychiatry, psychology, top psychotherapists and advocates alike. Secondly, make no mistake that the whole sorry industry of “psychiatric drugs” is as corrupt as a parliament full of politicians. The biggest fine in history was just handed out to glaxoSmithKlyne for “understating” the side effects of some of their anti depressants. Johnson&Johnson in the USA have recently been convicted to enormous fines for similar offences, including bribery of doctors etc., including in Greece, indeed…. Meaning, there is a VERY unhealthy commercial interest in keeping people in psychiatric hospitals, quite a few of them are nothing but test labs for the pharmaceutical industry.
          But before you start claiming to be a specialist on this matter as well as everything else, do a little reading first. There’s a lot more to it than a conversation with a patient and a few articles that make it to the frontpage of Bild or even Der Spiegel. This is for starters. Enjoy.

          – Allen, M. & Smith, V. (2001) “Opening Pandora’s Box: The Practical and Legal Dangers of Involuntary Outpatient Commitment”, Psychiatric Services, March01,Vol.52, No.3

          – Failer, Judith (2002) Who Qualifies For Rights? Homelessness, Mental Illness, And Civil Commitment. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

          – Szasz, Thomas (2005) “Should Psychologists Be Coercive Agents of the State?” Current Psychology: Developmental • Learning • Personality • Social.

          – Hargreaves, W., & Shumway, M. (1989) “Effectiveness of services for the severely mentally ill”‘ C. A. Taube, D. Mechanic, & H. Hohanis (Eds.) The future of mental health services research . Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

          – Bennett, N., Lidz, C., Monahan, J., Mulvey, E., Hoge, K., Roth, L. and Gardner, W. (1993). Inclusion, motivation, and good faith: The morality of coercion in mental hospital admission. Behavioral Sciences and the Law.

          – Hoge, S., Lidz, C., Eisenberg, M., Gardner, W., Monahan, J., Mulvey, E., Roth, L., and Bennett, N. (1997). Perceptions of coercion in the admission of voluntary and involuntary psychiatric patients. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry,

          – Morrissey, J. & Monahan, J. (Eds) (1999), Research in Community and Mental Health, Stamford, Connecticut: JAI Press.

          – Women of the asylum: voices from behind the walls, 1840-1945 Jeffrey L. Geller, Maxine Harris

          – Soul Survivor: A Personal Encounter with Psychiatry by Mary and Jim Maddock (Asylum Press). –This is the story of a personal friend and her experiences with the 2psychiatric industry”. If ever there was an ey-opener, this it it.–

          – The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships (Guilford Family Therapy) by Michael P. Nichols

          – Words Were Originally Magic by Steve De Shazer (w.w. Norton)

          Come back to me after you’ve read this lot and MAY begin to have a vague idea what you are talking about, and I’ll give you the next list of study books I went through before starting working with psychiatric patients. After that, and 15 years or so of practice, I’ll start accepting you may indeed know what you are talking about.
          Until then…

          • Sorry, I won’t read all that stuff. And the courts who decide if someone is a danger for himself or others don’t read that, neither. They rely on the evident facts and on the opinions of expert witnesses, of course. No misunderstanding, I actually agree that psyciatry and psychology are sciences that are very cllose to Alchemy, and that certainly many of the drugs used for treatment do more harm than good. But afaics it’s not that difficult to simply decide if someone is suicidal and/or dangerously agressive. And that’s the criterium for putting people in an institution, even in Greece, or not? We’re not talking about solving all problems of the human psyche here, the question simply is if the patients in the institutions belong there (if they’re getting better there is another, much more complex issue). Do you seriously want to claim they don’t?

          • “But afaics it’s not that difficult to simply decide if someone is suicidal and/or dangerously agressive.”
            Hmm, I guess I should clarify this. What I meant to say is that I believe that most (but not all) people who are in institutions really should rather be there than unsupervised in public. I didn’t mean to say that all people who should be in a psychiatric clinic (or at least in some kind of treatment) actually are there. Certainly not.

          • keeptalkinggreece

            good you clarified that. people are in psychiatry for other reasons as well, I would say

          • I wouldn’t think you would make the effort, much easier to argue from a position of ignorance, no?
            The latest study by Baker&Baker, released only a few days ago, quite specifically states on “psychiatric drugs” that NO drug treats any pathology in the accepted snese of its meaning. All they do is modify patient behaviour. So much for the bio-chemical model of “treatment”.

            The simple reality is that most people who are diagnosed as “mentally ill” have severe emotional problems, ie. depression. But is is an emotion, not an illness. However, by claiming these emotions to be illnesses, it does open up a complete industry, of which psychiatric institutions are unfortunately a very big part. Yes, there are some people (but only some!) who do indeed need to be removed from society becaus they are a danger to themselves as well as other members of society. The lunatic who devised this proposal being one of them.

            However, in the vast majority of cases, those placed in psychiatric institutions can much easier, cheaper, and far more effectively be helped regain their mental health in the community. there are literally 100s of studies confirming this from every point of view you want to look at it. But ofo course, you need to want to look instead of simply repeating a very amateurish interpretation of the worst doctrine ever, the DMS.

            I could go on for ever on this. Do yourself one big favour, and check out a woman called Mary Ellen Copeland. She developed, out of necessity, a system called WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Program), and has single handedly prevented the imprisonment of 1000s through that program. It is now incorporated in many curriculae in the US scholing system, with great effect. And that’s where it belongs, in the education system. Many, many incidents of mental distress can very easily be avoided if people are given the tools to do so. We teach our children to brush their teeth, but can’t be bothered to teach them how to stay mentally healthy. And by not dong so, we have helped create one of the most viciously rootless, often criminal pharmaceutical industry, who seem to have a carte blanche on declaring anything and everything an illness for which they devise “medicine”. And it does get absolutely crazy. Today, one of the biggest modey generating “illnesses” is the menopause…And unfortunaely, people (in this case women of course) unquestionly accept this BS.

          • As I wrote, I agree that there’s a lot of exploitation of patients by the pharma industry going on. But that’s not the topic here. This is about the psychiatric institutions and whether people who are there should contribute to the costs of their treatment. Regarding the desperate state of the Greek finances, I can’t see a valid reason why they shouldn’t. Otherwise, the patients would be better off financially than the average guy, who has to spend his money for housing and food. That wouldn’t be fair, neither.

            As for your info about Mary Ellen Copeland – that’s very interesting, and of course any new approach which allows more people to participate in public life while still being effectively treated is highly desirable. However, let’s not fool ourselves, the reality in the US is very much different! For a leading industrial nation, they are embarassingly stingy when it comes to treating mentally ill citizens. Hundreds of thousands of people are virtually left alone with their severe problems, many among them who are a danger to others. That certainly isn’t a positive example for other nations.

            So, Greece shouldn’t follow the US example, but try to find its own compromise between the task to provide psychiatric treatment for those who need it and the severe limits of the state’s finances. Not everything that is desirable can also be funded, sorry.

          • The insane proposal to partially confiscate the pension of people committed to psychiatric institutions is dangerously criminal and offers no solution to any problem what so ever. It’s blatant exploitation of those who are not allowed to speak for themselves, who have been robbed of all their rights, and is nothing short of a proposal that will ensure their permanent imprisonment in totally inadequate, mainly unnecessary institutions, leaving them at the mercy of a very often criminal pharmaceutical industry who see these patients as nothing short of guinea pigs for their various concoctions. Dr. Mengele would be very proud of their achievements..
            But the proposal does highlight the need to look at how we, as a society, treat the most vulnerable in our society. And makes the discussion on treatment of psychiatric patients a very valid one, but does paint a picture most people do not want to see. they would prefer to ignore both the problem and the discussion thereoff. Ostrich policy at its best.

          • It is not insane, but it is criminal. Such is the logic of prioritizing powerful capitalist interests and disregarding common citizens. It is actually a challenge to the very foundation of the liberal democratic state, as are all of the policies of the Troika.