The Children’s Hospital “Agia Sophia” has been in the spotlight in recent weeks due to the lack of anesthetists and therefore the dysfunction recorded in the schedule of regular surgeries. Today he was also at the center of political controversy, with the president of SYRIZA – Progressive Alliance, Mr. Alexis Tsipras visiting the hospital and asking “demand for private anesthesiologists” and the Minister of Health, Mr. Thanos Pleuris to attribute to him that the visit was “for communication exploitation”.
The anesthesiologists at the NHS, and especially those at the “Agia Sophia” Children’s Hospital, are however constantly sounding the alarm about shortages before the coronavirus pandemic, which was a milestone for the country’s health system and the dynamics of public hospitals. Like the doctors of other specialties, e.g. intensivists, pulmonologists, microbiologists, etc., they have emphasized many times that public hospitals they emerged from a harsh health war counting new woundsand while basic pathologies, such as underfunding and understaffing, left by the ten-year financial crisis had not been addressed.
As far as the pediatric hospital is concerned, the meetings of the health workers with the administration, the Athens Piraeus Physicians Hospital Association (EINAP), the 1st Health Region, the leadership of the Ministry of Health in order to find a solution, intensified in the previous days and opened one. ..a glimmer of optimism for the strengthening of the anesthesiologist department at the country’s largest pediatric hospital. As announced by the Ministry of Health, 3 positions of anesthesiologists will be advertised and they will move immediately and temporarily, until the positions are filled permanently, other 2 experienced anesthesiologists at “Agia Sophia” from major hospitals in Attica.
This is an option, however, by common admission, absolutely temporary and tentative, as anesthesiologists who move on secondment, again leave vacancies in the hospitals where they are permanent. Of course, it is worth noting here that a few months ago, 3 positions of anesthetists were advertised but were not filled.
In the largest pediatric hospital in the country anesthesiologist positions have doubled in the past decade. The 24 organizational positions that existed before the memorandums were reduced to 17 with the new Organization of the hospital, but only 10 of them are covered. It should be noted that the operation of the anesthesiology department at the Children’s “Panagiotis and Aglaia Kyriakou” is also in a marginal state. The scene is similar in other hospitals of the country. The shortage of anesthesiologists in the hospitals of northern Greece, especially in Thessaloniki, has led the leadership of the Ministry of Health several times to marathon meetings and meetings to find a solution. The sad event of last summer, when the lack of specific doctors in Hippocrates of Thessaloniki resulted in a liver transplant being canceled and finally the transplant being received by lay doctors in Athens.
At the “Agia Sophia” Children’s Hospital, emergency cases are operated on as usual. The involvement with the elusive specialty of anesthesiologists has arisen in recent years with children having to undergo routine surgeries. These include non-urgent ophthalmological operations, such as for strabismus, non-urgent plastic operationsorthopedics related to anatomical problems, such as scoliosis or spondylosis, ENT operations such as for tonsils or meatus and other operations.
The waiting list for minors to be operated on now numbers around 2,900 children. According to the Minister of Health, “the waiting list of surgeries delivered by the government of Mr. Tsipras in 2019 was 2,853 surgeries.” In 2018 the list numbered 2,300 children. In 2014, when Mr. Tsipras visited the hospital again, the list was around 2,000 children.
The numbers, however, are not fully representative according to hospital medical sources, as the list may include children who were called for surgery but ultimately did not show up on the scheduled day, or other children who may have been operated on through the emergency procedure.
What is certain, however, according to the same sources, is that if the day care units of the hospital were operating in full with the anesthesiologists and nurses they should have, the regular surgery list would be reduced by 1,500 children within 3 months!
Currently, the 9 anesthesiologists serving in the hospital (1 anesthesiologist is on sick leave) with the support of their other 2 colleagues from the other hospitals will be able to operate 1 more operating table.
According to the Minister of Health, the announcement of positions of Agia Sophia for anesthetists and other necessary positions will be on a priority basis.
It is recalled that in order to deal more directly with the problem of shortages of anesthesiologists, the Ministry of Health gave in June 2022 an extraordinary and tax-free monthly allowance of 400 euros to Anesthesiologists and 250 euros to specialists. In fact, this was extended until the end of the year and verbal assurances have been given to the anesthesiologists that it will be given in 2023 as well.
In addition, the possibility was given to qualified doctors serving in the NHS to also specialize in anesthesiology (second specialty) receiving their salary as an exception, which is not the case for trainees in a second specialty. However, this move did not pay off either – around 7 qualified doctors chose to specialize in anaesthesiology.
According to the latest census, there are 580 anesthesiologists in public hospitals, with shortages estimated at 20% of organic positions. The real needs are greater, and it is estimated that instead of the 725 anesthetist positions that exist in the hospital organizations, the NHS needs at least 900. Of the 340 specialist positions, approximately half are covered.
The high salaries of anesthesiologists in private hospitals in Greece or abroad is the main answer to the question why public hospitals are left without anesthesiologists. A curator B’ or specialist in Anesthesiology is paid 1,500 euros per month net and an additional 400 for on-calls, the director 2,400 per month. In the private sector, salaries are triple, the same in Cyprus, which many Greek anesthesiologists choose as their professional base.
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