G. G. Bain On beach near Casino, Asbury Park 1911
Found myself talking to very lovely and very young Melanie from Ottawa, on a solo world tour, last evening in a bar in the Plaka district of Athens. And as I was telling her about what I do, and why, I noticed it was very hard to explain to her what exactly is happening to the Greek health care system.
Being from Canada, which has ‘universal’ health care, along the British NHS model, she had a hard time wrapping her mind around the fact that many Greeks simply can’t get any care. Other than through solidarity clinics, staffed entirely with volunteers, and run on donations. Melanie kept insisting that it must all be a matter of money: ‘are the drugs too expensive here?’ No, sweetheart, to a large extent there are no drugs. And people don’t have anything left, no money, no nothing, and if not for the volunteers, they wouldn’t get any care at all. Many already don’t.
And it is of course hard to understand that in a modern western nation, where there are plenty highly educated doctors and nurses, the health care system can be this depleted and gutted. It’s very unjust and morally despicable that this is possible in a country that is part of a rich monetary union and a large political union.
So I’m very happy that with the support of the Automatic Earth readership, we can do at least something to ease the pain. Monday I donated €1000 to the Piraeus Solidarity Clinic, a wonderful initiative run by dedicated volunteers, 60 different doctors also all volunteering, and medicines donated through all sorts of channels, including -former- patients. The Greeks have (re)discovered a very strong sense of solidarity amongst themselves, and it’s an honor to be able to help out in that.
The staff at the clinic did explain that since Syriza is in power, conditions have improved, since all sorts of restrictions have been lifted that were keeping the system from functioning. It’s become easier for people to be admitted to a hospital, for instance. But the government is broke, as we all know, and in that respect the solidarity clinics will probably be needed for a long time. A quote I picked up a while ago said “..if you are sick in Greece now, you have an expiration date.” That cannot be.
In their own words:
PIRAEUS SOLIDARITY CLINIC
Tel: 00302104960790 Daily 9.30 am – 8.30 pm
Xenofontos 5 & Pelopida – 3rd floor
Memou Square, Korydallos – 18120
Active citizens and health workers, doctors, nurses and caregivers have joined together to form the Piraeus Solidarity Clinic, because the economic crisis, the poverty and the unemployment exclude many fellow citizens from the public health services. The Piraeus Solidarity Clinic offers primary health care, medical and dental treatment, medicines, occupational therapy, logotherapy, as well as social and psychological support to non-insured fellow citizens at no cost, in a specially designated area provided by the Korydallos Local Authority.
Our pharmacists help unemployed or pensioners with small pensions or economically weak fellow citizens with special needs by providing them medicines that they can not afford any more. We offer our services to anyone who come to us, without making any racial discrimination and we distinguish ourselves from the philanthropy of the rich, because our target is to stretch out solidarity so that no one feels alone in the crisis. Hence, we’ve built a network with other solidarity clinics all around Greece and alongside the direct health provisions, we demand from the state better public health system conditions.
The Piraeus Solidarity Clinic project was an initiative of 12 people, which started in February of 2013 and currently exceeds 108 volunteers: 63 doctors of various specializations plus 45 volunteers who work in different shifts every day to help organize the appointments of our clinic.
Here’s picture of the line of patients waiting in the hallway:
And the wonderful staff, along with yours truly:
Plus the receipt for the donation:
Thank you so much for making this donation possible, along with the others I will soon make. And please understand that we can never do enough, so keep your donations coming. Here’s once again what I said three weeks ago:
Now, I don’t think I can go to Athens and not try to see if there’s something I can do to alleviate some of the misery in my own small way. But since that way would be extremely small given where the Automatic Earth’s financial situation and funding stand at the moment, I thought of something.
I’m hereby setting up an “Automatic Earth for Athens” fund (big word), and I’m asking you, our readership, to donate to that fund. I will make sure the revenues will go to clinics and food banks, to the worthiest causes I can find. To not mix up donations for Athens with those for the Automatic Earth, which are also badly needed, I suggest I take any donation that ends with 99 cents, as in $25.99, and single those out for Greece. Does that sound reasonable? Let me know if it doesn’t, please.
As things stand now, I can make 4 more donations like this. Or a few extra smaller ones. I’d like to do more, and you can help with that.
Let’s show solidarity with solidarity.