The combination of nationalized “universal” healthcare, extreme unemployment and a bankrupt state has produced a very anti-family outcome.
When the Athens maternity hospital where Anna gave birth asked her to pay for the costs of her Caesarean section, she told them she did not have the 1,200 euros (£970, $1,500) they wanted.
They responded, she says, by threatening to keep hold of her baby until she paid the full amount.
Like hundreds of thousands of people in Greece, Anna (not her real name) is not eligible for free non-emergency healthcare. The Greek state only provides that for people who are employed and making regular national insurance contributions, or, when people are unemployed, if they are fully up to date with tax payments.
Out of work, you’re out of luck. And more than a fifth of Greeks are out of work.
Greek governments have cut healthcare spending by 13% over the last two years and instructed hospitals to tighten their belts dramatically.
At the same time, public health facilities have seen a 30% increase in demand, as middle class Greeks stop paying for private healthcare.
Doctor Katerina Stypsanelli says that in the past managers would not always insist on payment from the poorest patients, but are now under pressure to enforce the rules.
“It is not the hospital’s fault, it is the government’s policy and budget tightening which is forcing their hand,” says Stypsanelli, who works at a sister hospital under the same administration.
Anna made a call to a women’s group, who made a call to the hospital director, and he gave the order to allow Anna to take her baby home. The hospital director denies that any of this happened.
The director of the hospital where Anna gave birth, Nikos Faldamis, denies that he was contacted about Anna’s case. He says his staff never threatened to hold Anna’s child and that they offered her the option of paying in instalments right from the start.
“This is not a pawn shop where we hold your ring as a deposit. Nothing like that has ever happened here,” he says. “The lady gave birth and was due to be released on a Sunday but since our administrative staff don’t work on weekends she had to wait until Monday at which time both she and her baby left this hospital together.”
But a similar case apparently happened at the same hospital back in December and other cases have happened around the country. Predictably, leftwing advocates aren’t taking this bizarre turn as a hint to decouple health care and government power and unleash the private sector, but as an excuse to get the Greek government to spend even more money on health care that it doesn’t have.