Monday, February 7

Fakilaki

Greece is a wonderful home for hypochondriacs. I'm one. Continuously worried about my mortality, I'm daily checking various obvious (and increasingly difficult to reach) parts of my anatomy for signs of cancer, ebola, dung fever, more hair loss from my head and more hair growth from my ears and nose.

My slightest pain is the Heart Attack. My slightest cough the 1st case of Bird Flu. My slightest choking on a fag the 1st sign throat cancer. My hangover is never a hangover, it's the early symptons of Brain Cancer.

And this is where Greece comes into it's own. In England, where I came from, you can't visit a dentist before mortgaging your home to pay for him. You have to book a visit to the Doctor, which can be slightly difficult if you're suddenly taken ill. You have time to holiday, write a book, redecorate your house, divorce, remarry and have more children, all before you get the hospital operation. You don't have to pay for it but it doesn't matter, because you'll be dead before you've saved up the money if you did have to.

Here, it's different.
In The Village is a clinic. 24 hours a day. In my nearest town there are several walk-in pathologists, x-ray clinics, dentists, gynachologists, psychiatrists, and more. An MRI scan doesn't take 18 months to get, it's a taxi ride and €180 away. The hospitals may have peeling paint, broken chairs and unlit corridors, but they do have, 24 hours a day, Pediatricians, Cardiologists and other Specialisms on hand, and always. In England the hospital may be brightly lit, painted in mood colours, and receptionists, but you have to get in, first, and find a Doctor, second.

I'm on first name terms with the local walk-in emergency clinic. I don't even have to tell them what's wrong, by now they know, slap me on some moniters and just usher the appropriate Doctors to me. I don't go to the Pathologist for a blood test for a specific result, I get so many readings and checks and negative results the print-out can't be carried out by one person alone.

Yes, the culture is different. So, my dentist smokes with his fag hanging from his lips whilst he delves into my mouth. But he sees me. Instantly. And often, if there's no major work to do, for free.

So, for now I'm happy.

But, there's Fakilaki. It's the Achilles heel of Greece's health system. It's the money-in-the-brown-envelope payment often needed to pay off a surgeon before an operation. Not to queue jump, for Fakilaki is more often than not asked for at the bedside of the patient already in the hospital. It's to get good attention and care when your asleep on the operating table and not able to check that everyone's taking good care and attention to the detail. The 'Ooop' s, where did Ieave that scalpel?' sort of attention to detail.

It's one of The Shames of Greece. It's not univeral, but too many Doctor's, who are paid a very good salary to start with, and with their training paid by the taxpayer, demand money from the patient - the taxpayer and their customer, to do their job properly. It's not the Hippocratic Oath, it's the Hypocritic Oath. The Government is trying to stamp it out by fining those reported to be asking for Fakilaki. They should be tougher. They should sack them, and ban them from ever practising again. They should set up a national hot line where callers can report such abuses, and investigators who can ferret out the truth.

As a hypocrondriac I have a vested interest here. For my time in the hospital bed will come again, for sure. So, please, lets get this sorted out before it's my turn.

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