Greece's Santorini island finally gets a hospital, thanks to residents' campaign


Our Observer Georgia has been fighting for five years to obtain a hospital for the Greek island of Santorini, in the Cyclades archipelago. That dream was finally realised last Friday when the hospital opened its doors to patients, thanks in large part to the campaign led by Georgia and other island residents.

The Observers first wrote about Georgia almost two years ago, in September 2014. At the time, she was living in Santorini and pregnant with her second child. Georgia had gestational diabetes and no facility on the island was equipped to provide her with the pre-natal or postnatal care that she and her new baby needed.

At the time, she explained that she would have to travel by airplane to Athens to give birth in a hospital there, even though there was a newly built hospital sitting empty and unused on the island. The Santorini hospital was originally supposed to open in 2011 but remained closed due to budgetary restrictions, a problem all-too-common in debt-ridden Greece.

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Georgia and was among roughly 1,500 island residents who signed a petition to bring media attention to the problem. She also ran a Facebook page where she published the stories of Santorini residents who were unable to receive treatment on the island and often had to pay exorbitant prices to get treatment elsewhere.

The collective made up of Georgia and other locals worked to pressure local authorities to open the hospital. Their effort paid off and the hospital opened its doors on July 15, 2016. The residents also benefited from the political will of Greece’s current government. In power since 2014, the left-wing government led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has made social issues a priority. Tsipras even came to Santorini for the hospital's inauguration.

"We are looking for homeowners willing to rent to doctors”

Georgia told us how relieved she is that the hospital is finally open:

It is going to change our lives! We’ll have specialists, like gynecologists and ophthalmologists. Before the hospital opened, if you needed to see a specialist, you’d have to go see a private doctor operating on the island. Most of these doctors are much too expensive for the average Greek citizen [Editor’s note: An appointment with a private ophthalmologist on the island costs around 60 euros. The average salary in Greece is only 750 euros a month]. Most of these costs aren’t reimbursed by social security.

Our newest challenge is to make it possible for the new medical personnel employed by the hospital to move to the island. Currently, only 120 of the 180 people who are supposed to come work at the hospital have arrived. It is very difficult for them to find housing because we are in the middle of tourist season and locals prefer to rent to tourists [Editor’s note: Since October, homeowners can rent to tourists for less than a month without needing a special renting permit]. So we are currently looking for people who are willing to rent their homes to doctors.

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