As part of a series of reforms brought in to manage the Greek crisis under an international bailout, public spending on health was drastically reduced, and at an unprecedented pace. According to the report, published in The Lancet, the country’s health has deteriorated so much since austerity began in 2009 that failure to access services and medicine has reduced the country to a series of “escalating human crises”.
Vulnerable groups have felt the force of the change, and funding cuts in treatment and prevention programmes has seen a ten-fold rise in cases of HIV in injecting drug user from just 15 in 2009 to 484 in 2012. Despite a documented rise in the prevalence of heroin use, street work funding was cut by a third. Tuberculosis cases among this group have also more than doubled since last year.
Austerity measures saw public spending on health capped to 6% of GDP, making it lower than any other pre-2004 European Union member, and the public hospital budget was reduced by a quarter between 2009 and 2011.
Other shocking figures suggest there has been a near doubling of suicides, which increased by 45% between 2007 and 2011, while major depression has increased 2.5-fold between 2008 and 2011. Despite this, the researchers said, state funding for mental health dropped by over a half (55%) between 2011-12. Infant deaths also jumped by 43% in just two years between 2008 and 2010.
Health in Greece has nosedived and a scaling back of local government activities including mosquito-spraying programmes, have led to the re-emergence of locally transmitted malaria for the first time in 40 years, the researchers said.
Rural areas have also seen shortages of medicines and medical equipment, and reforms of public funding for expensive pharmaceutical drugs has had some “unintended results” like unobtainable drugs. One provincial survey suggested up to 70% couldn’t afford drugs they were prescribed.
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