Community Clinic Provides Solidarity for People of Greece

Toula Zerrou and Marina Kechagla

Marina Kechagla has been out of work for the past eight months. She’s qualified to work as a midwife but like many other young workers in Greece, Marina has been unable to find work because of “the troika’s” austerity measures.

Kechagla has offered her time as a volunteer at the Metropolitan Community Clinic in Elliniko working with women and children. “I came here about a month ago because I didn’t want to sit around at home,” she said. “I just wanted to work and do my job.”

Established in 2011, the clinic has become a place of solidarity for the people of Greece who have been shut out and denied access to free healthcare.  So far, the clinic has served more than 15,000 patients.

According to clinic pediatrician Toula Zerrou “the need for the center will grow bigger because we have more and more people not covered by Social Security, especially those who used to own their own small businesses but lost them during the crisis.” For many of the people who visit the clinic, it is their last resort.

Although the clinic is located in Elliniko, people travel from near and far to receive treatment. “I have seen here people that are in need of what we give. There are people here that are unemployed. They don’t have insurance. They don’t have money to take their medicine or go to a doctor,” said Marina Kechagla.  “It’s very important for them that we give this to them. It’s a very bad thing to not have money to go to the doctor. Some people may not have money to get vaccines for their children, or buy their milk or buy their diapers. We give them these. We give them whatever we have.”

The clinic accepts donations of medicine from ordinary people and from pharmacies that support this work. But they shouldn’t be in this alone. “We cannot give the patients everything they need,” said Zerrou. “It is my personal opinion that the national health system will collapse very soon.”

The government continues to miss the mark in providing the necessary investments in Greece’s health system and recently the police narcotics squad and officials from the National Organization of Medicines (EOF), who said they received anonymous reports of unauthorized drug distribution, raided the clinic.

Staff and volunteers envision the Metropolitan Community Clinic becoming more than just a clinic. They want it to become a place where Greeks and immigrants from all walks of life come together and discuss issues in their community and how to take social action.

“We want to make a statement,” said Marina. “There is no primary healthcare in Greece.”

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by Courtney-Rose Dantus, Service Employees International Union, USA