Healthcare in Greece is provided by the National Healthcare Service, and is made up of a combination of compulsory health insurance and private medical practice. While all residents are entitled to a certain level of insurance coverage, there is also an option to receive supplementary, private healthcare, if the patient is willing to cover the extra cost.
Greek people spend a significant part of their income on health care. Waiting times for examinations and surgeries are very long and very modern equipment remains unavailable for various reasons, forcing citizens to turn to the private sector, paying for expensive services. Much of the population has access to adequate health services but there is a lack of equipped hospitals in the provinces.
What happens if you need to see a doctor?
To see your doctor in Greece, you must book your appointment three months in advance. If something unexpected happens and you need to see someone more urgently, you will need to go to a private doctor which is very expensive.
Who decides what doctors can prescribe?
The National Medicines Agency in Greece evaluates and approves new safe and effective products and monitors the quality, safety and efficacy of the products in circulation in the country.
Practically, what is it like to live with type 1 diabetes in Greece?
If you are insured, insulin, test stripes and hospital visits are for free. The other diabetes supplies and technology are also free if you are insured. If not, you will have to pay out of pocket.
The biggest problem for a person with diabetes is to learn to regulate their diabetes. In Greece there is no training to learn how to deal properly with your new lifestyle. Many people do not understand what diabetes is. As a result, many children in school get stigmatized and most teachers do not know anything about diabetes. There are teachers who refuse to accept children with diabetes in schools and unfortunately the system makes this possible, so children must resort to private education.
What about getting admitted to hospital?
You need a doctor's referral for non-emergency hospital treatment. Specialists can be consulted, but public hospital residents usually have long waiting lists. In urgent situations (but not in emergency cases) the patient may opt to see a private specialist and later get reimbursed up to a maximum of 85% of the fee by the Idrima Kinonikon Asfalisseon (IKA). IKA is a government body which operates Greece’s National Healthcare System. Because of the limited facilities of some hospitals, patients can be referred to other hospitals. In the case of non-urgent operations, waiting times can be lengthy.
Emergency care is provided free of charge in public hospitals to anyone, regardless of nationality. There are also smaller outpatient clinics in rural areas which are attached to bigger public hospitals. These facilities provide faster emergency treatment than the bigger public hospitals. Rescue cars are available under the number 166 and must be at your location within 15 minutes after you call.
How does diabetes care vary throughout Greece?
Well-equipped hospitals exist only in major cities. In some provinces there are only first aid stations. You cannot stay there and if there is a problem you will have to travel to a hospital. The nursing staff and the medical equipment are not sufficient everywhere. In many hospitals there are not enough beds or things cotton, needles and other resources.