Greece orders private sector doctors to assist against COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: Intensivist Iliana Ioannidou is reflected on a monitor at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Sotiria hospital, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Athens, Greece, February 28, 2021. REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis/File Photo

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece has ordered private sector doctors in the broader Athens region to assist its public health system, which has struggled to fight fast-spreading COVID-19 infections.

The government had earlier called on private sector doctors to help out as Greece’s public hospitals have been overwhelmed by surging admissions of COVID-19 patients and intensive care wards are running out of beds.

Greece said that about 200 doctors were needed but only sixty one volunteered to help, while hospitals have been under huge pressure to treat some 5,000 people across the country.

“For weeks, the Health Ministry addressed an invitation - an appeal - to private doctors, to strengthen the hospitals of the National Health Service during the third major wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, very few private doctors came,” Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said.

“Taking into account the emergency conditions ... the Health Ministry is ordering the personal services of doctors in the specialties of physicians, pulmonologists and general practitioners,” he said.

With some 500 coronavirus patients being admitted to hospitals every day, out of which more than 200 are in the Athens metropolitan area, it’s like having a countryside hospital filled up overnight, a health ministry official said.

Greece reported 1,707 new coronavirus infections and 69 deaths on Monday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths to over 7,500.

The country has inoculated about 930,000 people with one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, about 9.8% of its population so far, and plans to ramp up vaccinations in April before reopening its tourism sector to foreign travellers, a major source of revenue for its tourist-reliant economy.

Reporting by Karolina Tagaris and Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Aurora Ellis