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Public hospital overcomes material shortage via “donations” to be used “for donors only”

Inspector units from the Ministry of Health paid a visit to AHEPA university hospital on Monday. It wasn’t a routine or courtesy visit. A prosecutor had ordered an investigation in the practices of the hospital in Thessaloniki and is awaiting the inspectors’ results. Workers at the biggest hospital of Northern Greece had denounced that in order to overcome material shortages, the public hospital was receiving “donations” by patients and that these donations were used for the patient-donor only. Furthermore, the donations would manipulate the priority lists with the patients’ names awaiting surgery.

The donations would be in form of surgical material like catheters and defibrillators that would be used for the needs of the donor only!

The hospital reportedly has a big shortage of material even of the very basics one. However this is the situation in Greece’s public hospitals especially after the sharp cuts in the health sector 2010-2014.

According to hospital workers, at least 30 cases of “donations for surgery” have been recorded. The donations were unanimously approved by the board of AHEPA hospital. Member of the board that approved the donations was also a workers’ representative, the same woman who denounced the scandalous practices to authorities.

Workers’ Representative at the board Anastasia Politoy justified her signature in such illegal actions saying that accepting donations by citizens was a common practice in recent years because of the hospital under-funding. However, these donations were of social nature and patients or their relatives would donate bed sheets, wheelchairs and other logistic material. “However in the last 2-3 board meetings, we had more than 20 cases with donations made by patients for material to be used for these patients. We reached to the point that we had to approve these donations as the material was already used in the patient since two months and we had to avoid that it would be paid by the patient himself.” Politoy added.

According to state Athina984 FM, “Patients who would not afford a donation might have to await for a surgery even for one year.”

Speaking to reporters, the chairman of the Association of AHEPA Workers, Charalambos Koroxenos said that “patients or their relatives would donate surgical material in the hospital with the purpose to be used for the donors.” The donations were “€500 in the average, however there is material such as defibrillators with a cost reaching to €3,000.”

Many details on the donations procedure are not clear, except for one case in which a patient had to purchase and donate to AHEPA a [heat?] catheter worth 500 euro. The patient had reached an agreement with the doctor, the doctor informed the hospital administration that brought the case to the board. The donation was approved, the surgery took place with success.

According to what has been reported in the Greek press, it looks as if what was registered as donation by the hospital was in fact an enforced purchase by the patient in order to get the needed treatment. Furthermore, that the material  donations were used for the benefit of the donor only. It is unclear whether patients would donate money to the hospital to facilitate the manipulation of the lists for patients waiting surgery and get a surgery earlier than those who would not afford to be described as ‘generous donors.’

To be fair not all the donations in AHEPA are used for the benefit of the donor only. A worker at another hospital in Thessaloniki said that he was asked by AHEPA to buy from a pharmacy a specific medicine for one relative hospitalized there. “Two days later I had to buy another package as the rest of the medicine was used for other patients as well,” Petros Ketikidis told media.

The prosecutor of Thessaloniki ordered an investigation into the denouncements two days ago. According to state broadcaster ERT TV, health authorities repsonsible for the area said that investigation would take several months as there were denouncements about similar practices in other hospitals in Thessaloniki as well.

The AHEPA University Hospital was founded in 1947 with the economic support of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) a Greek organization in the USA. AHEPA hospital has a new governor who is currently about to take over his new post.

It is not a secret that the Greek Public Hospitals system (ESY) is ‘clinically dead’ since 2010. And every year the situation is getting worse as personnel leaves and does not  get replaced and funding is down to 200 million euro from 1 billion euro.

But legalizing the famous fakelaki, the good old Greek tradition of stuffing euro banknotes into an envelope and give it to doctors as an extra award, an under the table payment to secure treatment? Enforce Fakelaki for life-saving material and rename it Donation for the benefit of the Donor only? How about those who cannot afford to pay for a catheter or whatever else they would need to continue their lives?

PS With Greece’s lenders austerity scheme, insured patients have a percentage of  self-participation in medicine, lab tests and some material like a wheelchair etc. But I wouldn’t know that patients had to cover part of the cost for catheters, pacemakers, defibrillators etc from their own pockets. Another point to mention here is that the price for such a device in retail is normally quite high. I assume, the prosecutor would have to investigate as well if specific companies were profiting from this hospital practice and if a small commission would be donated too.

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  1. Interesting article. My late friend, an English Judge with breast cancer who received chemotherapy treatment at Corfu hospital when she was at her holiday home here, and fully paid for by herself without invoking any NHS reciprocity etc, in my presence on more than one occasion offered to donate medical equipment,etc to the hospital to help them as she was financially well off and wished to assist those less fortunate. It was refused by her hematologist as being ‘unethical’ under Greek law. Comments please?

    • keeptalkinggreece

      i know that in some hospitals you’re not even allowed to go to pharmacy & bring a drug not available in the hospital. AHEPA maybe had special donations status as it was/is (?) in connection with the US-NGO. Many hospital practices depend also on the hospital governors.

      • Corfu hospital made us pay in advance for chemo and then sent for a courier to bring it to the hospital as they could not get credit!!My poor friend was lying with a drip set up waiting for the courier!Beggars belief but we gave the hospital sufficient money to buy numerous doses to avoid this ludicrous situation. We were fortunate but for others………….?