[MGSA-L] A childbirth odyssey in austerity-hit Greece

June Samaras june.samaras at gmail.com
Mon Sep 8 18:14:41 PDT 2014


08/09/2014 / GREECE
A childbirth odyssey in austerity-hit Greece

   - photo <http://observers.france24.com/category/type_article/photo>
   - Greece <http://observers.france24.com/category/tags/greece_0>

The island of Santorini, located in the Cyclades archipelago in southern
Greece, is often said to be one of the world's most beautiful. But although
it may be paradise on earth for tourists, it is less so for local
residents. Our Observer there explains that she will be forced to give
birth on the faraway mainland because Greece’s drastic austerity policies
have severely diminished the medical services available on the island.

Georgia N. <http://observers.france24.com/profile/285181>
“It costs me 5,000 euros each time I give birth”Georgia N. is a Greek
resident of Santorini. When she was pregnant with her first child in 2011,
she discovered that she suffered from gestational diabetes, a type of
diabetes that appears during pregnancy.

The construction of a 50-bed hospital began in 2008. It was supposed to be
operational for the birth of my first child and to have all the required
equipment: several maternity and delivery rooms, examination rooms…
everything that someone like me, who was diagnosed with pregnancy-related
diabetes, would need. I waited until the last moment, but when I saw that
the hospital was still not open, I decided to travel to Athens to give
birth. I spent a month under observation in order to take all the tests,
but if I had been able to give birth in Santorini, I would only have had to
stay for a week at most. At the time, I figured that at least my next child
would be born on Santorini.

Photo of the Santorini hospital, taken in 2011 after the end of

Now, four years later, I am pregnant with my second child, with an expected
due date of January 2015 — and history is repeating itself. The hospital
has still not opened due to cuts in public health funding and a lack of
doctors. Because of my diabetes, I need to take blood tests every three
weeks with a specialised doctor. I must take a boat or a plane to travel to
Athens to take these tests. I’ve calculated that each new baby costs me
about 5,000 euros.

Georgia in the Athens hospital with her newborn baby in 2011.

*“Even a urinary tract infection can be catastrophic for a newborn in

What’s scary is that the slightest medical complication can have serious
ramifications here. When he was a month old, my first child developed a
urinary tract infection. We had to make an emergency flight to Athens in
order for him to receive the appropriate medical care.

There is a private clinic in Santorini, but it is not adapted for giving
birth and is horrifically expensive for a Greek person. The only people who
can actually get treated there are tourists, but only for “small” problems.
If, for instance, they have a car accident, they can’t be operated there
and instead have to be evacuated to Athens.

According to our Observer, medical equipment is still under plastic sheets,
as shown in these photos taken in 2011. Photo published here

Georgia N. <http://observers.france24.com/profile/285181>
Santorini hospital, a symbol of the country's budget cutsThe budget for the
Ministry of Health was drastically cut as a result of the austerity
programme launched by the Greek government in 2009. Between 2009 and 2011,
public hospitals’ budgets were sliced by 25%
<http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140220193400.htm> and a third
of all hospitals were on the brink of shutting down. In fact, Greece has
become one of the European Union countries with the lowest health spending
per capita. As a result, doctors have publicly protested several times
the last few years in Greece.

Santorini is not the only Greek island that lacks a health centre and that
relies on evacuations to Athens to treat patients. However, it is the only
such island that has a brand new hospital—albeit one that never opened.

In 2008, Greece's health minister, Dimitris Avramopoulos, decided to build
this hospital as a response to the growing medical needs of the island’s
15,000 Greek inhabitants as well as those of the many visiting tourists. In
2007, 92,000 patients
<http://www.greeka.com/cyclades/santorini/news/news/467.htm> had visited
the island’s now-closed medical centre, which was completely overwhelmed by
the demand.

Since then, however, the hospital project has completely fallen through, to
such an extent that a group of residents, of which Georgia Nomikou is a
part, launched an online petition
its opening. The group is hoping to collect 15,000 signatures -- one for
each resident of Santorini.

The hospital building has been abandoned since the end of construction, but
the equipment has not been moved. Photo published here

Post written with FRANCE 24 Observers journalist Alexandre Capron (
@alexcapron <https://twitter.com/alexcapron>).

   - Add new comment
   - Français
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://maillists.uci.edu/pipermail/mgsa-l/attachments/20140908/e0b6d0f6/attachment.html>

More information about the MGSA-L mailing list