Healthcare in Greece
For decades, hospitals in Greece have been praised for their quality of care. However, the healthcare system is notorious for corruption, lack of funding and mismanagement.
In an attempt to streamline the system and fight corruption, the Greek government has introduced universal social security numbers and electronic prescriptions and has also channelled resources to Greece's larger hospitals.
Many Greeks and expats alike take out private health insurance, which appears to be more comprehensive and cost-effective than their public healthcare scheme.
Public healthcare in Greece
Despite Greece's less-than-ideal reputation for healthcare, public hospitals in Greece are still generally adequate and there are still professionals who do their best to deliver quality care. The biggest downside is long waiting periods in order to receive care.
While some hospitals in more remote locations on islands may provide a lower standard of healthcare, the best public hospitals – usually concentrated in the major cities – offer care of a high standard. It is often the case that expats who require more sophisticated care than island hospitals can provide will be transported to a hospital in Athens or Thessaloniki.
Most medical staff in Greece will speak some level of English, though this may differ based on their position and the location of the hospital. A doctor in Thessaloniki is more likely to speak English than a nurse in Preveza, for instance.
Emergency care in Greece is free of charge regardless of one’s nationality. However, unless an expat is employed in the country, has a social security number (known as an AMKA) and pays for public health insurance, they will have to pay their own medical bills for most primary care visits.
Expats in the early stages of moving and who have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will also be provided with healthcare for a limited time. However, the cost of private care is not covered.
Private healthcare in Greece
Private healthcare in Greece is normally considered to be superior to the public alternative. Private medical facilities are generally less affected by the country’s economic situation and have newer equipment, but are not covered by IKA. Expats who would prefer to go to a private hospital in Greece would do well to have a private healthcare policy since they will be responsible for the full cost of their treatment.
Moreover, doctors and nurses in private hospitals are more likely to speak English. Some Greek private hospitals even have affiliations with US hospitals or hospitals in other countries, and their staff will have had at least some form of overseas training.
Health insurance in Greece
All expats in the country on a working visa, who are looking for work or on pension in Greece, require an AMKA. Furthermore, social health insurance is a compulsory contribution made by employers and employees. While some employers will try to skirt around their contributions, IKA takes this very seriously and, should this occur, the employee should contact their closest IKA office.
Medical care by IKA-approved practitioners is generally free, although patients are required to pay a fee for all prescribed medicines. Unfortunately, the cover is not as comprehensive as it used to be and many Greeks take out a private health insurance policy as gap cover. Furthermore, social healthcare, as with other bureaucratic procedures in Greece, is a fairly complicated issue for outsiders and it is suggested that expats research this very carefully.
Pharmacies in Greece
Pharmacies in Greece are normally marked by a green cross. They are widely available, especially in larger cities, and are generally a reliable first line of defence against illness. Many Greek pharmacists will speak English and are capable diagnosticians who may save expats a trip to the doctor.
Expats wanting to bring prescribed medication from their own country should bring them in their original containers, and ensure that they are clearly marked. It is also recommended to have a signed physician’s letter outlining their patient’s condition and the medication required for it, including generic names.
In cities such as Thessaloniki, medication is easily accessible although more specialised forms may only be available from hospitals. Expats who contribute to IKA generally receive a percentage off of the cost of prescription medication, and patients go to an IKA-approved doctor, who provides them with a prescription that is then taken to a pharmacy.
Emergency services in Greece
Public ambulances are widely available in larger cities, but access may be restricted on some islands and rural areas. In these cases, private ambulances, helicopters and taxis may be legitimate alternatives depending on the situation.
General emergency: 112