Aegina Home & Living - Living in Aegina

 

 

 


LIVING IN AEGINA

What is it REALLY like to live in Aegina?

 

                                                           LIVING
 

LIVING                                                                              APRIL 2010

 

THE CULTURE OF HEALTH CARE

 

Years ago, when I was in charge of a 20 bedded cancer ward, I often had to deal with the frustration of nurses who complained about the behaviour of Greek relatives, particularly those who’d paid to use our health system and were initially unfamiliar with our health care culture. They wouldn’t leave the bedside, even at night and this interfered with the nurses’ delivery of care. I spoke a little Greek and was able to explain to the relatives that their loved one would be thoroughly and deligently cared for, both during the day and the night and that it was better for them to return to their hotel to rest for periods of time. Usually, within a couple of days, the family would relax and visit the patient for shorter bursts of time.

Since my employer was the N.H.S and I worked for a centre of excellence, I was eventually sent to Greece for a week, to a cancer hospital, to explore the culture of care in order to understand what it is that caused them to be so anxious, that we might implement a strategy to allay this.

The first thing I noticed was the absence of curtains, not one to be seen around a bed. When the ward round was conducted, I was shocked to witness patients being asked to bare their anatomy  for everyone to see, including the cleaner who may have been passing and the visitors who were sat around the beds.

The ward was obviously short staffed and so the nurses concentrated on specific rather than general care, hence relatives would conduct the general care of cleaning and feeding the patient and helping him/her to feel more comfortable.

Later, in clinic, I witnessed a patient who anxiously burst into the consultant’s room. Having just returned from England where he’d been told the brutal truth about his prognosis, he needed to seek reassurance from his Greek consultant that he wasn’t going to die immediately as he had a young family. The consultant, a warm, homely, caring man, insisted that there was certainly treatment for him, that he should go hometo his family and return the next day. On leaving, the consultant turned to me, looked me in the eyes and said “He who hopes, lives”.

I didn’t see any evidence of the fakolaki, (the small envelope containing money) which apparantly buys favors and better care but they do exist and it is up to the people to stop this. Fortunately, this is forbidden in England, indeed it is an act that is considered shockingly undignified, resulting in dismissal from work

Wind on twenty years and here I am actually living in Greece and I am visiting a relative who is on an orthopaedic ward at a state hospital in Piraeus. I am visiting him as I have to help feed him. He is on bed reast and cannot sit up.

My sister in law is the one who cleans him and I wonder why he isn’t on a soft mattress to prevent bed sores. These have to be rented, so I insist we obtain one. It will cost us twenty euros per week.

I ask why the nurses don’t clean him and turn him regularly to prevent sores developing but I am told that the nurses are too busy. Whenever I see them though, they are always sat in the office. We arrange night shifts among the family and everyone is exhausted.

Winding on further, I develop exruciating bone pain after carrying a heavy and cumbersome rug for 30 minutes tucked under my arm, my hip slightly twisted.

We pay a monthly state health insurance which means I could see a GP and pay nothing but I’d have to wait a very long time in the morning. I do not wait around for anyone during mornings so I opted to pay a nominal 30 Euros to see him immediately during his private evening session.

I was sent for blood tests the next day and a bone x-ray and density test two days later.

I had the bone density and x-rays reported on by an experienced radiologist within an hour and was able to return to the GP the next day with all of my results in hand. These films and results are now my property and will always be accessible to me in the future. Never will they disappear into the bowels of a chaotic medical records department as often happpened in a much larger training hopsital that I once worked at.

Here in Greece, mammograms are performed annually on women aged 45 plus and are free to those who pay insurance. This time, I had to go to Piraeus because my Gp wanted me to have the best, state of the art digital imaging. The young, female radiologist looked like most twenty something Greek girls; full make up and push-up bra squeezed into a tight uniform. Protecting my dignity, (I attend annual seminars in England about respecting the dignity of the patient) I asked whether it was so important for her male colleague to continue staying in the room during my procedure. In England, I pointed out this is a private, female only procedure. “Oh he’s only a colleague”, she dismissed.” he’s seen everything before”. :”But I don’t want him here”I complained.” Oh, don’t be ridiculous, he is not watching you”. Wearing my most resentful facial expression, I glowered at him and wished him an enjoyable time. They chatted throughout about their social life. I was just a paler one of the many who passes through their life on a daily basis. I had my result though reported on and ready by the evening…most impressive!

My mother recently visited Aegina with back pain…do NOT pick up your cases and weigh them before travelling. 20 Kilkos is an enormous strain on anyones back, particularly if you weigh them three times!

We offered to take her to our GP but she decided to wait unti her return home to England.

There, she was offerred an emergency appointment with a nurse who decided that it was actually better not to have an x ray as the rays themselves can be dangerous.I’d like to ask her to show us the evidence. My mother is not a regulat user of the N.H.S. and has infrequent exposure to X-rays.

My mother has since manged to see her G.P but has received no investigations. Her back although less painful, still hurts. Had she have been here longer, she would have had an X-ray, a bone density test and bone health blood tests.

There is no ideal world and it would be wonderful to have free, quality health care for all.  In England and in Greece there are different systems in place, both of which are subject to economic and cultural pressures; one is very dignified but often inaccessible whereas the other is undignified yet more accessible.

Nevertheless, this writing expresses my opinion, based on experiences which are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the rule.

Are there any other opinions out there?

 

Alison Lorentzos                                                      copyright 2010



 

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