Youth advocates share their experience of life with diabetes during Greece's economic hardship

Published on Wednesday, 12 August 2015 12:15

GreeceKonstantinaThe last few months have seen turbulence in Greece, something which has affected people living with diabetes perhaps more than others. Here, Konstantina Boumaki and Ioannis Zampetakis, both IDF Europe youth advocates, share their personal experience of what the situation has been like for them, as young people with diabetes living in Greece.

Konstantina Boumaki (participant at the 2014 IDF Europe Youth Leadership Camp) writes:

“Greece is going through an adverse economic crisis. Extended socio-political events have had profound repercussions in people's lives. Although we, the people of Greece, might not have been related to its cause, we are held accountable for it, and are trying to get through with various impacts on our lives. Like any economic crisis, ours brought budget cuts in the health system.

Despite the uncertainty, the health system hasn't collapsed, giving priority to those in need. As a chronic condition, diabetes is supported by the health system in terms of supplies for a better treatment. Hospitals and pharmacies have no deficiencies in supplies yet and people have full access to them. However, the process has become much more complicated, and funding is clearly affected. Before the crisis, to receive diabetes supplies, you had to file a signed document from your doctor with a four-year validity. Nowadays, the validity is reduced to one year (plus an obligatory monthly approval accompanying the main document) due to strict measures. The way it works is that the patient receives the supplies free of charge, and the pharmacies pay for them and then turn to public insurance funds to get the money reimbursed. Payments today are being delayed for up to five or six months, and even then, they are not always paid in full. For people with diabetes that use insulin pumps, things are more complicated. Pump supplies come at full personal expense at first, as the patients pay pharmacists, and then file a request for reimbursement with their insurance company, sometimes waiting up to four months for their refunds. Our health system is struggling to cope with its obligations with very little funds, creating a public mystification.

A lot of us are experiencing feelings of anxiety, stress and pressure, as people are trying to find a way to survive in the chaos that exists in Greece. Whether we are worried about the future of our treatment or the future of our country, we are facing fear in our everyday lives, and this certainly does not help us lead healthy lives. These feelings influence the blood sugar levels for a lot of us, and it becomes more difficult to stabilize them. Even if we hope for the best, we walk an unknown path, and we can't be sure about its ending. No matter how much we want Greece to succeed, this situation is stressful to the Greek community, who do not know what the next day will hold. In situations like this, we have to stay strong and most importantly, we have to stay together.

Greece has dealt with many challenging situations in the past, but has managed to survive. We hope for the best now.”

GreeceIoannisIoannis Zampetakis (participant at the 2011 IDF Europe Youth Leadership Camp) adds:

In July, Greece was in the worst economic condition of the past century, and this crisis has affected us with diabetes too. Pharmacies all over the country closed for one day in the middle of July and threatened to not cooperate with the Social Security Organisations. That would mean that people with diabetes would have to pay the full amount for their insulin and supplies themselves.

Also, mid-July, pharmacies did not give all the drugs that a person was asking for. Instead, they would give you only one box. For example, I went to get two boxes of insulin, but they would only give me one. Pharmacists feared that if the situation did not change, they would not have drugs and supplies for long. Furthermore, in the same week, a friend of mine could not find what she needed in any of the 10 pharmacies in our town, so she had to drive 40 km to find test strips and insulin. At the moment here in Crete, you have to wait a week to get your order from the pharmacies, since they do not have the supplies at hand but have to order them.

The situation in Greece is bad, but there is always hope. Now that the European Union and Greece have come to an agreement, things will get better and I hope that the problems we’ve faced will be resolved.”