In recent days, the human toll of COVID-19 in Greece has mounted sharply. The second wave of the pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on public health systems and severely strained existing infrastructure and human resources. As new COVID-19 cases in Greece have increased dramatically, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions have followed.
Under these unprecedented conditions, in which the demands of the pandemic are outpacing the capacities of the state to respond—not only in Greece but around the world—the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) moved to contribute to relief efforts. In April 2020, responding to the dire challenges posed around the globe by COVID-19, SNF announced a $100 million global relief initiative to help address the impacts of the pandemic. To date, SNF has allocated grants totaling €73.7 million through the initiative, including more than €32 million in Greece. These grants aim to help strengthen the country’s health care infrastructure and combat the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic, both in the short and the long term.
In late May, as part of the initiative, SNF announced a grant for the addition of 174 ICU and High-Dependency Unit (HDU) beds in 15 hospitals across Greece, from Attica to Thessaloniki, Lamia, and Crete. The €16.4 million grant also includes a five-year educational program for doctors and nurses who work in ICUs. By harnessing the power of cooperation between the private and public sectors, SNF hoped to enhance the preparedness of the Greek National Health System for emergencies like the one we are currently experiencing, helping save lives. The new beds are expected to serve more than 6,500 patients each year.
The grant is fully underway, and all parties involved are making every effort to overcome the unprecedented difficulties posed to construction by the pandemic so that the necessary renovations can be completed between the end of 2020 and February 2021. New facilities are scheduled to be delivered in late December at the following hospitals: KAT, Tzaneio, and Attikon in Athens, and Agios Dimitrios and G. Gennimatas in Thessaloniki. These facilities will hold a total of 53 ICU and HDU beds. By mid-January 2021, the facilities for another 28 beds will have been delivered to Ippokrateio Hospital Athens, Paidon Agia Sofia, Korgialenio-Benakio, Vostanio Lesvos, Venizelio in Heraklion, and Agios Georgios in Chania. The project for the 7 new beds at Lamia Hospital is expected to be completed at the end of January 2021. The facilities for the remaining 86 beds will be delivered at the end of February 2021 at Ippokrateio General Hospital of Thessaloniki, at the University Hospital of Heraklion, and at Evangelismos, where 33 new beds will be added.
In May 2020, a €7.7 million grant—made as part of SNF’s Health Initiative—was completed for procurement of equipment at Evangelismos, including 850 beds, out of which 53 are destined for ICUs, HDUs, and the Heart Attack Unit. The grant contributed to upgrades in the services of more than 10 departments, including the Emergency Room, the Artificial Kidney Unit, and the operating rooms, in addition to the ΙCUs, the HDUs, and the Heart Attack Unit. (Another SNF press release to follow next week will share details of this grant.)
The process of delivering the ICU and HDU capacity expansions has been characterized by effective coordination between SNF and the Greek state and expeditious procedures designed to avoid bureaucratic delays. But given the challenges involved in the last six months, the process nevertheless remains a demanding and time-consuming one.
Intermediate steps include ratification of the grant contract between SNF and the Greek state by the Hellenic Parliament, tenders for the selection of contractors to design and build the new facilities, and the signing of individual contracts between SNF, the Greek state, and the administrations of each of the 15 hospitals. The goal of all stakeholders is to complete this urgent project as soon as possible while following essential processes and adhering to best practices.
Beyond efforts to strengthen the capacity of Greece’s hospitals, SNF’s relief initiative also includes grant support for two molecular testing and diagnostic reagent systems to help significantly increase COVID-19 testing capabilities and control the spread of the pandemic.
At the end of July, as part of the relief initiative, SNF offered an honorarium to more than 4,700 doctors, nurses, and cleaning staff at COVID-19 referral hospitals in recognition of their contribution during the first wave of the pandemic.
In addition to grants in the health sector, SNF has made grants to organizations in Greece working to address the varied and profound needs the pandemic has engendered. SNF has worked in collaboration with the nonprofit Boroume to help address food insecurity for 10,000 people hit hard by the pandemic and in collaboration with KEDE to provide immediate food relief in every municipality across Greece through Social Food Outlets. With a grant through the National Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA), SNF is supporting the continuity and development of a COVID-19 psychological support hotline (10306). As part of the relief initiative, SNF has also made grants to Doctors Without Borders for emergency assistance and health care for refugees facing critical conditions on the mainland and the islands of Lesvos and Samos; to the Greek Patients Association and Pnoi Agapis to assist people living with serious and chronic illnesses who are now facing additional risks posed by the pandemic; and to Initiative for the Child to support children who are facing difficult conditions at home.