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Uninsured patients with contagious diseases are being left untreated, voluntary health clinic warns

Failure to provide medication for hepatitis patients represents a 'lurking danger' for public health, claims Metropolitan Community Clinic at Elliniko

Metropolitan Community Clinic at Elliniko raises case of eight uninsured people with hepatitis who are facing dire complications because they no longer have access to medication

A volunteer checks medicines which have been donated by people inside the makeshift pharmacy at the Metropolitan Community Clinic at Elliniko, a medical centre set up by volunteers (Photo: Reuters) A volunteer checks medicines which have been donated by people inside the makeshift pharmacy at the Metropolitan Community Clinic at Elliniko, a medical centre set up by volunteers (Photo: Reuters) The country's leading voluntary health clinic has accused the health ministry of engaging in an "astonishingly irresponsible policy" over its failure to provide urgent medicines for people with serious and contagious diseases like hepatitis.

The Metropolitan Community Clinic at Elliniko, Athens, was highlighting the case of eight hepatitis B and C sufferers who approached it as they could no longer obtain their expensive medication because they were uninsured, indigent or both.

"Unfortunately, our clinic cannot provide these patients with the extremely expensive medication that they need, without fail. So these people are facing dire complications and there is a lurking danger that they may transmit their disease to others as well. It is a problem that seriously affects public health," a statement from the clinic said.

Despite sending a letter to the health ministry and the general secretariat of the government (which until last week was run by Takis Baltakos) on March 11 about the eight individuals, the clinic says it has not received a response.

"We are therefore pleading once more with the ministry of health – and this time publicly – for what should be obvious. That these people must be given the proper medical attention at once and there should be a commitment by the ministry that other such cases will be covered by the public health system.

"Doing otherwise puts our society in great danger. This attitude by the ministry is not only insensitive but it is also astonishingly irresponsible policy. Patients with serious and contagious diseases cannot be ignored."

Since it was set up in December 2011, the clinic has had thousands of visits from people denied access to free state healthcare, like the longterm unemployed and the impoverished. The clinic refuses cash gifts and corporate support but accepts donations of medicines.

Text of the letter from the Metropolitan Community Clinic at Elliniko to Health Minister Andonis Georgiadis

To the health ministry: Health Minister Mr Adonis Georgiadis

Copy to: Office of the health ministry secretary general
Copy to: General Secretariat of the Government

Subject: Emergency appeal for medication for patients with hepatitis Β and hepatitis C

Dear Minister,

The Metropolitan Community Clinic at Elliniko is making an urgent appeal for the immediate attention to the very serious issue treatment of patients with active hepatitis B or C. Uninsured patients do not systematically receive their treatment regimen. They may receive it sporadically or not at all. And this has consequences for themselves and for the community as a whole. Treating the disease with Copegus and Pegasys inj is impossible for uninsured/indigent patients because of its cost. The voluntary community clinics often find it impossible to supply this specific therapy.

The problem usually concerns young people, and creates a chain reaction of problems for the patients themselves and for the community as a whole. It should promptly be given the appropriate solution, which is access to the correct drug therapy.

The question of these specific drugs was put to you in our visit to the ministry in January 2014, as well as in our written appeal.

Currently, we have eight patients battling these illnesses. It is impossible for either them, or us to cover the expenses of these medications. We – they – need your immediate help.

At your service,

Vassiliki Iliopoulou

On behalf of the coordinating committee of the Metropolitan Community Clinic at Elliniko 

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