A hospital visit in modern Greece! The English Patient

Mrs Rogers, a member of our Kefi club in Worcester recently wrote this letter in our magazine after her experience in Greece.  She has allowed me to reproduce it.  It gives some idea of the problems faced by this distressed country. But nothing thankfully dims the Greek kindness and hospitality and warmth. God bless them. 


The English patient and the Singing Surgeon  June 2015

The operation was the best part!  As soon as the actual surgery began the radio went on and everybody started singing.  maria, the surgeon had the most beautiful voice of all. Getting to what appeared to be the small wooden ceilinged theater on the friday morning had meant a journey through corridors and cluttered anterooms used for stores.  The anaeshthetist kissed me on both cheeks, surprised and disappointed that my husband was not there, my arm was bound to a board to prevent my seeing what was going on and then they started hammering and sawing, the normal sounds of carpentry.  And they were so jolly.  The only period of quiet was during the stitching.

The accident had happened five days earlier on Monday.  A simple slip on a wet floor and the thigh bone had been fractured.  The proprietor of my husband’s kafeneio stopped the traffic for the coast road taxi and shoved a bottle of raki in my hand .  Within 40 minutes I was in the local hospital, x-rayed, cathetered and full of painkillers.  And there I stayed waiting five days for surgery.

That wait for the next available operating time seemed never ending.  There was no nursing care apart from drugs and observations.  The ward had two other women, each had a carer, nurse or relative around the clock and seemingly much attention. I felt neglected and isolated, friends phoned in from Athens.  But the bedding needed changing, incontinence sheets in lieu of a bed pan had to be bought from the hospital shop and changed ion the curtainless bed.   I needed water to drink and clean my teeth, the catheter had to be changed , to have a wash meant finding a plastic basin, everything had to be bought or brought in.  The hospital had nothing to spare for extras,

How to get extra nursing was the question/ Did we need a brown envelope with a ‘bribe’ .  Whom should we ask without giving offence? A friend left cash to pay for a bath but it turned out to be simple.  The lady in an office opposite the hospital shop had the list of approved nurses  with a standardised charge depending upon time, day and whether the nurse was married or single.  She was there when I came out of the theatre, a highly professional, orthopaedic nurse.

The nursing care had been the only problem, otherwise the generosity and concern all round was abounding.  Our landlady left food for my husband pegged to the washing line each evening.  i had a stream of visitors, the car park attendant reduced his charges, the raki left in the taxi was returned.  As for the professional competence and dedication of the surgical staff, this could not be faulted. After a query over the relative leg length, maria ran the operation video through again tio ensure all procedures had been correctly followed.  They had been.  But the local newspaper headline on the day of my discharge tells the underlying reality ‘Hospital to be downgraded’.

To what?  There is nothing left to cut, the surgical supplies are bought at the lowest cost from travelling salesmen, the screws in my leg had to come from Athens and, according to my delightful singing surgeon the nail was too long.  The head of finances had her own salary cut from 1200 to 800 euros a month.  It is an understaffed, under resourced and dedicated hospital.  Those clamouring for further cuts could do worse than visit it.  Long may Maria continue to sing!



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