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Hygiene at risk in debt-stricken Greek hospitals18th of December 2012
Greek hospitals are in such dire straits that staff are failing to keep up basic disease controls such as using gloves and gowns according to Europe's top health official.
Reuters reports that Greece already has one of the worst problems in Europe with hospital-acquired infections, and disease experts fear this is being made worse by an economic crisis that has cut health care staffing levels and hurt standards of care.
With fewer doctors and nurses to look after more patients, and hospitals running low on cash for supplies, risks are being taken even with basic hygiene, said Marc Sprenger, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
"I have seen places...where the financial situation did not allow even for basic requirements like gloves, gowns and alcohol wipes," Sprenger said after a two-day trip to Athens, where he visited hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
"We already knew Greece is in a very bad situation regarding antibiotic resistant infections, and after visiting hospitals there I'm now really convinced we have reached one minute to midnight in this battle," he told Reuters in an interview.
Roberto Bertollini, the World Health Organisation's chief scientist and representative to the European Union, told Reuters he too was worried about the rate of hospital-acquired infections in Greece. He said cuts to resources and staff only make it harder to adhere to infection control and hygiene rules.
"Countries have to be very careful when ... choosing what to cut and what to keep," he said. "This is a very serious business which might impact the health of the population much more in the medium term, thus increasing rather than decreasing costs."