Saturday, 21 June 2014

Is there a Doctor in the House?

Probably not.

Readers in the United States, Azerbaijan, and the far-flung Fulham Road may as well stroll/scroll through previous posts as today’s is concerned with a local matter: medical facilities in this little Greek island of Alonnisos.

Visitors, and those long-term foreign residents who wear some kind of mental blinkers, may need to be told that in the event of accident or illness they should go to the island’s medical centre: opposite the junior school, next door to the town hall, at the top end of Patitiri. The bus down from the Old Village will stop on the nearby corner if asked. (Well, ask the driver; not the bus.)

At the medical centre they will find a nurse, a trainee doctor, and a chap on full state salary whose job is to sit with his hands behind his head, rocking his chair, watching television. Nurse and trainee doctor between them will take care of day-to-day medical needs, and cope with people whose idea of holiday fun is to rent a motor-scooter then take off nearly all their clothes and roar up and down dirt roads until they fall off.

But where is Doctor Yorgos? Yorgos Athanasiou has been Alonnisos’s doctor for longer than most people can remember. He knows every one of his patients personally, and that is probably even more valuable than his full medical qualifications and his frequent attendance at medical seminars and conferences in cities such as Thessaloniki and Athens.

But most valuable of all is Yorgos’s whole-hearted commitment to the health of all — visitors, ex-pats, natives, newly-arrived Albanian building workers — in the island. And now he must retire. He doesn’t want to, but has been told in no uncertain terms that he must. Told not by someone concerned for his health — he has already sacrificed his own health for the sake of others’, but being prevented from working might kill him — No; by order of the state. He is no longer ‘allowed’ to work at the Health Centre in whose foundation he was instrumental; his tiny pension may be stopped if he persists in working there unpaid.

Well, OK then, where’s the new doctor? Ah. Um. Well, you know, the crisis… you can have a trainee… (No disrespect intended here: she is very competent, but quite rightly makes no secret of ringing up Yorgos about anything difficult.)

So Yorgos, a life-long socialist and supporter of socialized medicine, has been forced by his own devotion to his people and by the state’s blind application of inappropriate rules to open a private clinic. He has been helped in this by a haematologist in Volos; blood analysis is among the things offered by the new clinic. It is opposite the upper chemist, in the basement of the building housing the courier office and the traditional sweets shop. Go to Yorgos if your blood needs checking or you have, or suspect you have, medical needs beyond the common or garden. Hours are as follows:

8 — 12
8 — 12
8 — 12

Continue of course to go to the Health Centre in case of accident and for
run-of-the-mill medical matters. Oh, yes: the TV-watcher is the ambulance driver. Yes I know.

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