Health Care 'Exodus'

The mandatory Covid-19 vaccination of all health care workers expires today, Wednesday 1st September 2021*.  The Health Ministry is preparing for an imminent 'exodus' of staff due to the suspensions that will ensue with a wide array of preemptive measures to fill the gaps and to ensure that services are fully operational.  These measures include a reshuffle of healthcare workers within hospitals, mergers of clinics and departments, the replacement of those suspended with auxiliary staff and partnerships with the private sector for support services such as catering.  Wednesday is the last day for staff to get at least the first dose of vaccine against Covid-19 so as to avoid suspensions as of tomorrow.  The Government has insisted the relevant legislation for mandatory vaccinations will be strictly implemented. 

Those who are exempt from the precepts of the legislation are those that have already been vaccinated and workers who have been infected with the coronavirus within the last six months.  Health care workers who do not fall into these categories and have not received approval for exemption due to health issues by the competent committees will be suspended without pay.

The Secretary General of Health Services estimates that about 10,000 health care workers will not continue working in the National Health system.  The Panhellenic Federation of Workers in Public Hospitals (POEDIN) has announced protests in all hospitals across the country.  According to recent data, more than 90% of doctors and 80% of nurses had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while the percentages are lower for the rest of the health care staff.  Over 64% of adults are fully vaccinated in Greece.

As the first notices of suspension without pay started going out to healthcare professionals who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19, the Union of Public Hospital Workers urged their colleagues to go get the shot. "We appeal to all our colleagues to book a vaccination appointment, even in the final days", adding that it will "not allow colleagues to lose their jobs" and pointed out that some 2,000 healthcare workers have booked an appointment for a shot in the past few days.  The union also announced a work stoppage from 10:00 until 15:00 on Thursday 2nd September, with rallies at the Health Ministry in Athens and Thessaloniki and at hospitals across the whole country, indicating that this is just the beginning of its protest action.

Initially, a total of 5,895 job suspension notices were served to unvaccinated healthcare workers after the expiration of the dealine for the obligatory inoculations against Covid-19, with the government saying it would not extend the deadline.  It was later reported that 6,412 unvaccinated workers operating in the Greek private and public health sector were in the process of being suspended. 

* Original deadline for vaccinations was given to all healthcare workers by the government on Monday 12th July.   See 'OblIgatory Covid Vaccination' story.