A growing number of people in Greece are putting off having dental care locally as a result of cost, while dental tourism is becoming more popular, with an increasing number of Greek dental patients visiting Balkan states to save money on treatment. Economic problems in the country have forced many to cut back on spending on general living costs and dental care has become an unaffordable luxury for many. The situation is so bad that some dentists have also decided to move abroad for job security and increased income.
A growing number of people in Greece are putting off having dental care locally as a result of cost, while dental tourism is becoming more popular, with an increasing number of Greek dental patients visiting Balkan states to save money on treatment.
Economic problems in the country have forced many to cut back on spending on general living costs and dental care has become an unaffordable luxury for many. The situation is so bad that some dentists have also decided to move abroad for job security and increased income.
Athanasios Devliotis of the Thessalonika Dental Association says that there have been significant reductions in the amount of work for dentists in both urban and rural areas of up to 50%; dentists offering prosthetic services have seen the biggest decline, with some carrying out 80 % less work.
Young dentists have also suffered and this is part of the reason so many dentists are choosing to leave Greece to practice abroad. The number of dentists choosing to move abroad to offer their services is ever growing, with at least 500 having left the country. In 2010 alone, 95 dentists in Attica had certificates issued to supply dental services abroad. In 2011 this climbed to 185 dentists and in the first few months of this year there have been 140 such licenses issued. Another 230 such certificates have been issued to Thessalonikan dentists. Their most popular destination is Britain, followed by Germany and Italy, while there is also a good deal of interest in the Middle East and North Africa
Many social security funds have stopped covering dental care following their incorporation into the National Organization for Healthcare Services. Doctors and pharmacists have terminated all services to this organization as they are owed huge sums of money and every promise of payment has been broken.
The average price for a crown stands at 300 euros; a three-tooth bridge costs 1,000 euros, while an implant sets patients back by 1,200 to 1,500 euros. Foreign patients, many from the UK, consider Greece relatively cheap for dental care, and dental tourism packages have been created.
The latest Greek austerity package will hit the Greek health sector with further cuts to the health system. Savings of €2 billion will mean one in ten doctors and other medical staff losing their jobs in public hospitals.
There are already daily protests by doctors, nurses and patients all over the country as they have all suffered from cuts in wages, cuts to pensions and higher taxes.
According to the aid organization Doctors Without Borders, the funding of public hospitals in Greece has plummeted by 40 % since 2008, while demand for treatment has increased significantly. Serious shortages have developed because health service suppliers are not being paid on time. In some cases, vital operations cannot be carried out because suppliers refuse to provide the necessary medicines and/or equipment.
Doctors and pharmacists are already owed €230 million by the country’s biggest health insurance company, EOPYY. As a result, patients must pay in advance at pharmacies and also for some doctors’ services and submit the bills later to their health insurer. Such upfront payments are often impossible for the old, the poor and the chronically ill, meaning they have to do without medicines and treatment. EOPYY has a €1.5 billion hole in its current budget due to the decline in contributions to the company as a result of the recession and rapidly growing unemployment, as well as the partial insolvency of the Greek government. In a developed country, millions of people are now being denied health care.
Many private clinics and hospitals have closed, and others are struggling. Many Greek doctors are expected to move abroad, while those decreasingly few Greeks with money are either leaving the country or increasingly seeking healthcare overseas. Journalists publishing lists of Greek residents who hide money overseas have been arrested, while there are daily violent clashes on the streets; it is a country in political and economic meltdown.