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Chania: Quadriplegic woman dies after power cut due to debts to PPC

A quadriplegic woman died after Greek Public Power Company cut off the electricity supply due to debts and the life supporting oxygen machine stopped working. The bed-ridden woman was alone at home, when the PPC team came to cut the electricity supply. The life supporting machine worked for one more hour after the power outage.

Eytyxia Popodaki, 56, was suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis for 20 years. She was bed-ridden and on life support since 2003. She was certified with invalidity of 100%.

The tragedy unfolded on Wednesday noon in Nea Chania on the island of Crete and triggered outrage among the Greek society. Her family filed a law suit against PPC, an autopsy is expected to show the exact cause of her death.

The debt to PPC was €237 for electricity consumption and €573 for the “emergency property tax”, media report. But her son told private Mega TV, that an “anonymous donor” had recently paid the largest debt amount and that the debt was down to 110 euro.

According to media,  the caretaker of the woman was absent for a couple of hours in order to fix some issues, when the team arrived to cut the power supply. The team rang the bell but nobody answered. They cut the power supply and left allegedly leaving behind a notice.

But her family told the media that the life supporting machine rings alarm when the power is cut.

The life supporting machine worked autonomously for one more hour. When the caretaker returned home the woman was in coma. An ambulance transferred her to a nearby hospital but the woman died on the way.

“I filed a law suit against the PPC and anyone responsible for my mother’s death, I am going to sue also the contractor” the woman’s son told media on Thursday morning. “PPC knew that my mother was quadriplegic and on life supporting machine since 2007.” He added that every time there was a power outage in the area the PPC would bring a generator.

“We lost my mother for a bill of 800 euro and despite the fact that we had made a settlement with PPC,” the son told Mega TV.

Video: son speaking to Mega TV

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Son: “A man whose identity I cannot reveal here had recently paid the largest amount of the debt, the director of local PPC branch has recently told us that the debt was down to 110-115 euro. But on the paper, the bill was still 800.”

But right now I watch on Skai TV, SYRIZA MP Yiannis Stathakis saying that he had come up for the majority of the PPC debt of the woman. Stathakis said that his assistant had made payments to PPC, had informed the local branch of the woman’s condition and on the fact that the family was in financial difficulties.

The woman could not take part in the ‘social price list of PPC’ because the electricity connection was not on her name.

“We did not know that the woman belonged to vulnerable society group,” the PPC said in a statement stressing that the “consumer was never registered to belong to vulnerable customers particularly in the category of persons in need of mechanical support. The Company does not proceed to power cuts to homes of such persons.” PPC statement said further that “therefore the Company was not and could not be in position to know that this particular consumer was on life support in order to take the necessary measures.”

From media reports and the woman’s family statements, KTG understands that the director of local PPC branch knew about the situation of the woman, but a new director was assigned.

As the PPC workers refuse to proceed to power cuts due to debts, the PPC assigns private contractors to do the dirty job. Electricity bills skyrocketed since 2010, when the “emergency property tax” – usually several hundred euros – was incorporated in the bills.

Many households suddenly found themselves without electricity due to cuts and debts.

Hit by the economic crisis, many citizens find it difficult to pay the electricity bills. According to PPC data, the total debt is currently at €1,3 billion.

According to PPC, the power cuts were some 30,000 each month in 2013.

In November 2013, more than 350,000 Greek households had no electricity.

A few months ago, on 14 March 2014, Eytyxia Popodaki had appealed to local newspapers after the pension fund had cut her pension. For pension debts amounting €45,000 for a flower shop she had from 1992 to 1996.

Popodaki had spent all her life working in the fields and she had decided “to open the shop and sell the plants she was growing to raise her three boys,” she had said in her public appeal. But the illness forced her to close down the shop. Most likely, the woman had no idea how to deal with the Greek bureaucracy. (zougla.gr, protothema, newsit, goodnet.gr and several television channels)

Popodaki’s death shocks the Greek society especially because it comes a week after the death of a heart patient who fell victim of a surgeon in public hospital who blackmailed him for 1,500 euro under the table. The patient could not pay, the surgery was delayed, the man died.

The ticking crisis bomb has started to explode, I’m afraid.

PS I can tell you how the power cut occurs due to debts: one or two guys come, cut the electricity in less than one minute time and go. Like phantoms… No notification at least one day ahead. On the other hand, even if you go let’s say today and pay 500 euro to PPC, if the next bill is due tomorrow, it will still show 800.

It took a senior in our neighborhood 9 whole months and countless visits to tax office and PPC to be exempted from the emergency property tax due to his financial situation and invalidity. Prior to the final decision, the power was cut three times in his home, although he was registered as “vulnerable group” and his wife was also invalid.

This is how bureaucracy works in our country. The local branch, the cashier know but the central offices, the power distributor who gives order for cuts and the contractor who does the cuts do not.



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