Greece: “Giving Birth is Not a Privilege of the Rich!”

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

Feelings of revulsion and anger were caused by news published in Eleftherotypia (Freedom of Press) [el] newspaper on December 5, 2011, which revealed some public hospitals in Greece have refused treatment to women in labour, because they did not have the money to pay hospital fees of 950 euro.

The incidents took place in November 2011, at public hospitals in Athens, Thessaloniki, Rhodes and Rethymnon. In these cases the cost of “integrated unified hospital treatment” according to Ministry of Health price list, came in at 950 euro for natural childbirth and 1,500 euro for birth by Caesarean section. Pregnant women pay the money in advance and afterwards the costs are offset with the labour allowance.

Birth. Photograph by Flickr user riqfy (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Birth. Photograph by Flickr user riqfy (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

After several days delay, the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity intervened with a circular, stating that [el] no advance payment of this amount will be required in future, leaving however the issue of price difference between the official price list and the provided labour allowance still open to question.

Two women's rights organizations, the ‘Women's Initiative Against Debt and Austerity Measures’ and the ‘Independent Women's Movement’, have started to raise awareness of these incidents:

Giving birth is not a privilege of the rich! We demand free childbirth, we demand that the bailout funds go directly to health sector…

The news was shared and commented on throughout various social media channels by Greek netizens.

Dimitris Oikonomou expresses his shame about the event [el]:
@d_oikon: ΝΤΡΟΠΗΗΗΗ…! Που φτάσαμε γαμώτο!! [Έδιωξαν από νοσοκομεία ετοιμόγεννες που δεν είχαν χρήματα…]
@d_oikon: WHAT A SHAMEEEEE…! What the heck, how did we end up here? [Women in labour were cast off by hospitals because they had no money…]
While user Gangelakis adds, in the spirit of the seasonal celebrations [el]:
@Gangelakis: Και ο Χριστός σε σπηλιά γεννήθηκε: Δημόσια νοσοκομεία αρνήθηκαν α περιθάλψουν ετοιμόγεννες,επειδή δν είχαν ν πληρώσουν
@Gangelakis: Jesus Christ himself was born in a cave: Public hospitals refused treatment to women in labour, because they had no money to pay
User Nemi Vl commented [el] via her Facebook status update:
Ένα ένα τα διαβάζω σήμερα, σκάνε σαν χαστούκια…
Reading news today one at a time… each feels like a slap in the face…
User Lector stresses the very essence of this incident [el] in a discussion forum:
Δεν κοιταξαν την ταυτοτητα αλλα το πορτοφολι.
They didn't look at the identity card, they looked at the wallet.
In the same forum, user simonbolivar makes a comparison [el] with the American health care system:
Μας κανανε Αμερικη,οπου αν δεν εχεις καλη ασφαλιση εισαι τελειωμενος!
They turned us into America, where you are finished if you don't have any good insurance!
While, in the same vein, user Isis adds irony to the mix in a different forum [el]:
Συγκίνηση, γινόμαστε Αμερική.
Ακούς εκεί να ξεγεννάνε δωρεάν τα δημόσια νοσοκομεία. Κατάργηση και του επιδόματος τοκετού ΤΩΡΑ.
I am touched, we are becoming America.
Giving birth for free in public hospitals? Impossible. Wipe out childbirth allowance NOW as well.
In a news portal where the news were shared, user Harry expresses his anger in a comment under the original post about the hospital expenses [el] and the dealing with maternity:
Από όλες τις επιθέσεις που έχω δεχτεί από το κράτος (χαράτσια, ΔΕΗ, φόροι) πρέπει να πω ότι η μεγαλύτερη οργή μου προκαλείται από το πως αντιμετωπίζει την έγκυο γυναίκα μου. Η ασφάλειά μου δεν καλύπτει τίποτα πλέον (ΤΕΒΕ) και το νοσοκομείο είναι πανάκριβο και για κλάμματα. Κάθε κράτος στηρίζει την μητρότητα εκτός από την Ελλάδα. Αν συνεχίσει αυτή η κατάσταση θα μεταναστεύσουμε σε άλλη χώρα οικογενειακώς.
Among all the attacks I have faced by the state (heavy taxation, electricity, additional taxes), I have to say I am most furious about the treatment my pregnant wife faces. My insurance no longer covers anything (Fund for Independent Professionals and Craftsmen) and the hospital is very expensive and its service is outrageous. Every country supports maternity except for Greece. If this situation continues, I will take my whole family and we will go abroad as immigrants.
Twitter user Jordi criticizes the ones responsible [el]:
@jorjito73: Έδιωξαν από νοσοκομεία ετοιμόγεννες που δεν είχαν χρήματα…Όχι δεν φταίει ο Λοβέρδος, οι ανάλγητες διοικήσεις…
Women in labour were cast off by hospitals, because they had no money…Loverdos’ [Minister of Health] fault? Of course not, blame the cruel administration…
The discussion then moved to completely different subject about the future of the country and its future citizens [el]:
@katerinas_diary: @jorjito73 επεμβαίνουν και στο μέλλον της φυλής δηλαδή.. Αν οι άνεργες κλπ ετοιμόγεννες δεν θα γίνονται δεκτές στα δημόσια νοσοκομεία!!!
@katerinas_diary@jorjito73 They interfere to the future of the race, that is…If unemployed women who want to give birth are not admitted in public hospitals!!!
@jorjito73: @katerinas_diary Είναι μια αρχή κι αυτή για να διαμορφώσουν οριστικά & αμετάκλητα το εκλογικό σώμα τα επόμενα χρόνια… Αίσχος και κατάντια
@jorjito73@katerinas_diary It's the beginning of forming the electorate during the following years, once and for all…Shame and abjection.

Births in Greece appear to have decreased by 15% during the last year [el], as the harsh economic situation is forcing many couples to delay having their first or second child.

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.


  • Liseli

    That’s unfair!

  • Shattered

    I will agree that denying a woman in labor free medical care is monstrous at least. Giving birth should be FREE for everyone, period. That being said, if a household’s finances are so bad it can not cover the hospital fee, choosing to have a child was a bad decision. Family planning is one of the most efficient ways to fight poverty.

    • @Shattered Who said that there is necessarily “choosing” anywhere there? Do you not consider women who have no choice in the matter? What should they do, die in a ditch? And why does something natural need to be taxed and tagged and priced to begin with? And is it a matter of choice one way or the other, when you are in labour? Is it possible for the baby not to come? It is extortion, based on something that these criminals and the governments that spawn them know is inevitable. This isn’t deciding who’s the better dentist, this is playing with people’s lives. We are the only country in Europe that this outrage exists. The only country that you need to have signed a contract with a hospital in order to get an epidural, and they won’t give you one even if you’re bleeding to death if you don’t, right on the chair. As for “family planning”, go ahead, fall in the trap they have laid for you, that family planning depends on income. It doesn’t. It depends on proper societal controls. Everyone has the right to choose or not to have a child, regardless of income. If the government wishes to restrict low-income-breeding, there are still far better ways to accomplish that than this.

    • Sure, “Shattered”. If poor people stopped having children, in a matter of one generation there would be no more poor on Earth.

      Don’t you realise how low a country had to get before it arrives to such a point ? Next step is to adopt Ceausescu’s economic policy. he did pay the romanian debt within a few years.

  • […] It’s the new “health system”, the “unified medical care system”, also known as the “integrated unified hospital treatment”, under the new austerity. In this brave new world, women must pay in advance and then receive […]

  • This reminds a bit of the situation in Lebanon, where many die or are forced to die or get endebted to their knees so as to be able to be hospitalized.

    A few days after Human Rights Day, I cannot but ask where are we from this declaration … Isnt access to medication one of the basics ??? :S:S

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  • […] Το υψηλό -σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες €1000- κόστος για τοκετό στα δημόσια νοσοκομεία είναι μόνο ένα παράδειγμα των αρνητικών επιπτώσεων […]

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