Sobre el hospital de Ikaría

13 07 2011

Os copiamos aquí esta carta enviada por dos icariotas como llamada de atención porque pretenden desmantelar en hospital de Ikaría. Leed el informe, está muy bien, la historia de lo que costó construirlo y de lo poco que cuesta echarlo abajo. Lo publicamos aqui en el blog para dar una idea de la dramática situación por la que atraviesan los griegos en estos momentos.



We wish to speak to you on a very important and life threatening act that the Greek Government will impact on the people of Ikaria. That is, the downgrading of the Hospital of Ikaria into a Health Center and the closing down of the existing Health Center of Eydilos (the only one on the North side of the island). The Hospital of Ikaria was built by the Ikarian people and was conceived with the bitterest of memories and constructed with the hope that Ikarians would not venture out, but would receive free medical care in the Hospital of Ikaria, at Ayios Kirykos. In the face of the current economic crisis and the attendant political decision to downgrade our Hospital, the people of Ikaria, acknowledge that this will have terrible repercussions for all living on the island, and especially for our centenarians, who will be considered too old to receive proper health care.

We request from the academic community which is able to understand the importance of health care system to the quality of life and the sustaining of our unique local culture, and thus its importance for the longevity of the people, to take an active stand against such a political decision. Right now, if any voice can be heard, it is yours.

A Short History of the Panicarian Hospital

The Panicarian Hospital was built in 1958 by the efforts and offerings of the Ikarian emigrants of U.S.A. and the residents of the island. The Hospital was a burning passion of the Ikarians, and particularly the women, who had conceived the dream of a Hospital on the island during the interwar years. In this collective effort, the Association of Ladies of Ikaria and Sofia Vasilarou (the wife of John Vasilaros), took the lead. Mr and Mrs Vasilaros not only donated and collected donations from the Ikarians of the U.S.A, but were also responsible for the overseeing of its construction. Every Sunday, the church bell of each village in turn would ring and the men would gather and head with their tools to the Hospital to offer their labor (see photo 1).


The villagers of Katafygi offering work 1959, Archive of L.T.


The construction of the Panicarian Hospital lasted for a year and in August 1959, its opening ceremony took place (photo 2). Once the Hospital was opened, women from the villages set out to collect foodstuff, like oil, potatoes and onions for the Hospital kitchen. Work for its extension continued, also financed by offerings of Ikarian people in U.S.A., Australia and the locals. In August 1962 the opening ceremony of the NE wing of the Hospital took place with the offerings in land and money of Stefanos Lakios and his wife, Rousalia.

The following years, Ikarians from all over, embraced the Hospital, which functioned until 1972 under the wing of the Greek Red Cross. In 1972-1973, due to the Greek Red Cross’s economic problems, a Local charter of the Greek Red Cross was established, comprised by the Mayor of Ayios Kirykos, the High-School Master, the manager of a state bank and three more members of Ikarian society. This charter took over the management of the Hospital, undertaking at the same time the collection of offerings in money in order to cover its economic deficit. This was accomplished relatively easily as Ikarians had never stopped offering whatever the Panicarian Hospital needed in order to keep it as financially independent as possible, such as land, trees, equipment, oil, linens e.t.c. In 1982 and 1984, the Hospital Association of Ikarian Women constructed two buildings for storage at the backyard of the Hospital.

In 1986, the Panicarian Hospital was assigned to the Greek Ministry of Health with the condition and the hope that it would become part of the wider State Health Organization and at the same year, the State funded the construction of the Southwest wing of the Hospital. But, the problems started almost immediately: in 1988, 1300 residents of Ikaria, presented a memorandum towards the Greek Parliament for the Hospital of Ikaria, where they informed the members of the Parliament that the decision to downgrade the Hospital into a ‘Health Center’ had already consequences in terms of human lives and they asked for the temporary transfer of 6 specialized doctors. The answer of the parliamentary members was that the Hospital would remain a hospital and in addition, a Health Center would function side by side. In 2001, an additional Health Center was built at Eydilos, that since then, it functions as an integral part of the Hospital of Ikaria.

Throughout the years, the Hospital had periodically shortage of medical staff like surgeons, anesthesiologist, pediatricians and gynaecologists. However, the existing medical staff are offering their valuable services and, many times beyond their capacities and unpaid for long periods of time, have saved the lives of young and elderly people.

The specific history of the Hospital of Ikaria is in the process of being documented by a group of Ikarians who live on the island and the U.S.A.. The documents will be published (in Greek) on the blog of the Association of Health Workers of the Hospital & Health Center of Ikaria ( and (in both Greek and English) on the webpage of a Research Project run by two social scientists (, -currently available at <http://ebi.emark.>theatre/)- which is under construction with the valuable help of the University of Crete. Current Situation and Problems

The Hospital of Ikaria remains under the wing of the Greek Ministry of Health and up to now, healthcare is free for the residents who are members of the National Health Care System and provides its valuable health services to the people of Ikaria and the neighboring islands of Fournoi and Thymena (in total 10.000 people which during summer season are doubled). Although current problems such as shortage of personnel and equipment and the payment delays of medical and non-medical stuff, the recent engagement of a second surgeon has resulted in the important increase of the number of surgeries performed in the Hospital during the first three months of 2011.

In the context of the current economic crises, the Greek Government has announced the merging of Hospitals, which practically means the downgrading of Hospitals into Health Centers and the closing down of existing Health Centers. Furthermore, the parliamentary member of the islands of Samos, Ikaria and Fournoi, Mr. Vardikos, has sent a letter to the Ministers of Health, Transportation and Defense, stating that it is ‘more economic’ for Hospitals of ‘small islands’, like the one in Ikaria, to transport the patients instead of spending money for personnel and equipment! Nevertheless, recently, in two serious medical cases, when the doctors of the Hospital decided that the transportation of the patients was needed, it was decided not to send a helicopter, as the patients were deemed as being too old (both were more than 70 years old), thus resulting to the death of these people.

The possibility of the governmental decision to downgrade the Hospital of Ikaria into a Health Center and to close down the existing Health Center of Eydilos has caused great distress among the people of Ikaria, who are already considering that they will be dying in the fields helpless, as they once did.

We ask for your active support and help, in any possible way, and wish that you will find Ikarian people on the island when you will return, seeking our centenarians.


Maria Bareli, Economist, PhD student of Sociology

Efrosyni Koutsouti, Social Anthropologist

Association of Health Workers of the Hospital of Ikaria

Local Association of Katafygi

Local Association of Okse


The opening ceremony of the Panicarian Ceremony, 1959, Archive of Stamoulos