A group of concerned citizens, headed by former mayor Kostas Argouzis, has formed a committee (Coordinating Committee for Healthcare) to address the chronic staff shortages (doctors, nurses and ambulance staff), ensure necessary materials and supplies are available at the Paros Health Centre, and overcome obstacles to getting the air ambulance operational again. Currently emergency cases are taken to Syros or Athens by the EKAB helicopter at a cost of about 10,000€ or by private boat costing 3,500€; the plane, by comparision, is much more economical at only 2,000€, so the obstacles are more procedural than they are financial.
To this end, a petition with 5,000 signatures was organized and presented to parliament at a very large demonstration in Athens in February, which received extensive national media coverage and resulted in a number of promises being made (though not all fulfilled) by the Minister of Health. A cardiologist, pathologist, gynaecologist and orthopaedic surgeon have been assigned to the island, but only on one-year contracts, not as permanent staff, and the health centre is still missing a paediatrician, despite the fact that Paros has approximately 2,500 children! (Note that there are two private paediatricians practicing on Paros - see list of private doctors on page 40 - so if someone has private health or travel insurance or can afford it, there are paediatric services available, just not in the public sector.)
Critically, a shortage of ambulance staff means we do not have enough personnel to provide 24 hour emergency ambulance coverage on the island.
Some of the efforts to improve conditions have been hampered by the lack of a steering committee at the health centre (no one was willing to take on such a thankless - voluntary - task with such huge problems), but now that a committee was finally formed in June, progress can be made on some of the issues.
Amongst many other initiatives, Mr Argouzis proposes that EU citizens living on Paros get active and involved in these efforts to raise awareness of and put pressure on our various embassies to recognize that we are all in this together. Even 10 citizens from, say, France or Germany, banding together to write to the French or German government could make a difference politically and illustrate how all EU governments have a responsibility to ensure adequate healthcare services for their citizens throughout the Union. Mr Argouzis plans to organize a meeting with EU citizens to discuss and brainstorm ideas along these lines. Stay tuned!