My name is Mary Agrogianni, I am the General Secretary of the Athens Doctors’ Association.
I work at the State Hospital of Nikaia as a physician at the Covid ICU.
On behalf of the healthcare workers of Greece, it is our honor to greet the militant unions of Europe and the leadership of the WFTU in today’s event for the experience of the struggles during the pandemic. As the previous 2 years were a period very rich in militant action and experience for healthcare workers and doctors in Greece and in the world.
We note that the militants in healthcare years before the pandemic fought for the defense and improvement of public health services, for the right to exclusively public, free healthcare for all. We have never accepted the logic of the commercialization of healthcare.
In these circumstances, with the announcement of the first COVID case in our country, we realized that we had the responsibility to start a huge struggle, a struggle for the health and life of our people. We had already seen the pictures from the hospitals in other countries, from neighboring Italy, Bergamo and Brescia. The hundreds of dead, the exhausted health workers. We were slowly seeing the privatized health systems of Europe, which all the governments in Greece presented to us as a model, to be torn down like a tower made of sand.
The Trade Unions of hospital in Greece, the Federation and the Associations of Public Hospital Doctors from the first moment we were on the front line to deal with the pandemic. In the hospitals doing our duty as doctors against the pandemic, our colleagues got sick, lost their lives in the fight for life. At the same time, however, we were on the streets leading the way in organizing demands. Against the government narrative of “national solidarity and unity” in the face of the supposedly invisible threat. Contrary to the logic cultivated by SYRIZA and its supporters in the hospitals who called us to “respond afterwards”, a logic that in essence said not to fight for our lives, but to wait for elections to come to vote for a new government.
On March 18, 2020, the Government of Greece banned gatherings of more than 10 people.
On March 19, 2020, the very next day of the ban, the militants of healthcare broke the ban. In front of the Ministry of Health, we carried out a symbolic mobilization of 20 trade unionists doctors of PAME.
With raised our fists and the slogan “under the masks we have a voice”.
We gave the message of organized disobedience but also of hope.
A few days later, on April 7, World Health Day, we turned it into a day of action, struggle and claim.
Together with the class unions, we organized mobilizations in 157 hospitals and health centers, breaking the “lockdown in the action of the unions” that the government wanted to impose.
Throughout the pandemic, we did not stop exposing the nudity, the shortcomings of underfunding the public health system. From the battle for masks and personal protective equipment in the beginning, to the battle for respirators and oxygen afterwards, we have not stopped demanding specific measures to strengthen the hospitals in staff, infrastructure and equipment. We have shown that the government’s assurance that “we are shielded against the virus” was a huge lie.
The demand for the real and unconditional requisition of the private health sector and its inclusion in the battle of the pandemic, put by OENGE since the beginning of the pandemic, was embraced by dozens of unions of all branches. It revealed that at a time when dozens of patients were dying by intubation outside the ICUs, the government’s priority was still the profits of the private health clinics.
Our struggle was not limited to the walls of hospitals. Together with the respective unions we made interventions in large workplaces, in supermarkets, in the port. We highlighted the need for personal protective equipment, preventive controls, reduction of overcrowding in workplaces and Public Transport.
In the conditions of the pandemic, which was used by the government and the state to hit the movement, in conditions of restriction of traffic and prohibition of mobilizations, OENGE had its own special contribution to pass the message of resistance and struggle. The highlight is the PAME May Day 2020 rally, in which the hospital doctors also participated.
These two years we have seen the images of healthcare workers around the world, in Italy, in France, in the USA. Of the heroic doctors of Cuba.
We have seen the miracle of science, the possibilities that exist today to find in a few months vaccines that save millions of lives, but these becoming a commodity, with patents for the profits of multinationals
We saw the barbaric, huge contrast of the mass graves of New York’s poor, while the few rich capitalists traveling in space for fun.
This experience is for us a huge legacy for the great battles we have to fight from now on, both against the government’s plans for the further privatization of the public health system, and against the pursuit of restrictions on trade union action.
The healthcare militants of Greece will continue the fight, together with the class unions of the workers of the world for a society where Health will be a right for all and its achievements will belong to the people and will improve their lives.