Health minister confronted at London university talk

Adonis Georgiadis challenged over government's health record

The government's policies 'kill and Mr Georgiadis is here to promote the suffering of our people. This is not in our name,' Greek students and workers tell minister

Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis confronts a detractor (Photo: Twitter) Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis confronts a detractor (Photo: Twitter) Greece's health minister received a hostile reception at one of London's leading universities on Sunday when Greek students and workers living in the city sought to confront him over his government's health policies.

Adonis Georgiadis was at Imperial College London at the invitation of the college's Hellenic Society, to speak on the theme of “Turning the tide: The difficult path from deep crisis in the EU to the Greek presidency, and the path ahead”.

It was the third and concluding event of the "Greek presidency in London" series.

As the minister began to speak, members of the audience began shouting slogans at him, in Greek and English, particularly over his references to Argentina and Venezuela as models that Greece must avoid.

"You know anything about democracy," said the minister, to which a student replied: "You know nothing about reality." Another said: "We don't know anything about your democracy, at least in the way you understand it."

Protesters also told the minister to "go selling books", referring to his telesales book-selling business.

At one stage, the minister left the podium to challenge on of his detractors.

When it became impossible for the minister to proceed, a representative of the protesters, actress, playwright and screenwriter Zoe Mavroudi, was invited to read out a text.

Released last year, Mavroudi's documentary Ruins tells the story of over 30 women who were persecuted as 'HIV-infected prostitutes' in a politically orchestrated campaign in the run-up to the May 2012 general elections

The text, published on the Ypoti Mousi blog, is reproduced below:

Speaking to Greek media on Monday, Georgiadis claimed there was "a group of Greek students studying in London that were bringing misery abroad". Asked if the protesters were leftists, the minister described them as "Greek export goods to European culture". He added that "Syriza students in London should go to North Korea or Havana".

A modern Greek tragedy

We have been invited today to “celebrate” “Turning the tide: The Greek National Effort to exit the crisis”. Despite the title’s positive connotations, this event’s honouree, Health Minister Mr Adonis Georgiadis, belongs to a political class that is pushing the Greek people further into despair, making sure our country can never exit the crisis.

Mr. Georgiadis himself presents with a shameful record as health minister. His first action (July 2013) was to reinstate Health Decree 39A, which stipulates forced testing for infectious diseases under police supervision aimed at injecting drug users, sex workers, trafficking victims, HIV-positive people and migrants.

This action and the decree were strongly (and unsurprisingly) condemned by leading international health bodies like UNAIDS, human rights campaigners as well as scientists, like Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, the Nobel prizewinner who identified the HIV virus.

Later he publicly admitted that access to healthcare was “difficult” (To Vima, 1 November 2013). He now advises that “illnesses like cancer are not considered urgent, unless it is terminal” (Washington Post, 21 February 2014).

Despite these frightfully uninformed, disingenuous, and cynical musings of Mr Georgiadis, the Greek government officially refuses to acknowledge the evidence that is increasingly piling up of the disastrous effect of its policies on public health, while it opts to discredit the scientific research.

Contrary to his propaganda, the actual evidence is shocking.

• Public spending on health is now less than in any other European Union member state

• Almost one third of the population is currently, or shall be in the near future, at risk of no access to social health insurance

• Vulnerable populations such as the elderly, pregnant women, cancer patients, those with HIV, drug users, refugees, immigrants and ethnic minorities face increased difficulties to accessing health services

• Cases of chronic malnutrition in school children have increased exponentially

• Previously free and accessible national health services are now being cut and costs are shifted directly to the public

• Compulsory fees have been introduced to access public services, including outpatients’ appointments and drug prescriptions

• A recently introduced by Mr Georgiadis €25 fee for in-patient admission in public hospitals had to be revoked due to the ensuing public outcry

• Hospitals are severely understaffed with shortages in medication and basic supplies like toilet paper, catheters and syringes. Members of the public are expected to source and pay for these basic supplies

• There is a marked increase in incidence, prevalence and mortality of infectious diseases, including HIV and re-emergence of others such as malaria and TB

• Infant mortality has reversed and still births have increased

• Funding for mental health decreased by 20% between 2010 and 2011 and by a further 55% by 2012

•Mental health services are coping with a 120% increase in demand in the past three years

• There is a 2-5 times higher prevalence in major depression among the population

• Deaths by suicide went up 45% between 2007 and 2011

So, Mr Georgiadis’ personal and institutional response to Greece’s public health tragedy has been stubbornness and cynicism.

You practised these traits, Mr Georgiadis, during his years as seller or promoter of provocative books such as one entitled Jews: the whole Truth.

For you, and the Greek government that you represent, the total tragedy in public health is part of its notorious "success story" of foisting neoliberal economic policies on society.

These policies kill and Mr Georgiadis is here to promote the suffering of our people. This is not in our name!

You are not welcome.

- Greeks working and studying in London

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