Thursday, February 16, 2012

Greek Social Failure

Call me a conspiracy theorist but I am more convinced than ever that the one percent are actively seeking to wreck the post world war two social order in Europe. Out of the wreckage of the last huge conflagration Western European leaders built, in their various countries, a network of social welfare programs designed to banish hopeless misery from the continent. Now that the Cold war is over and Communist propaganda is no longer on tap to remind us that there is an alternative to free market starvation, we are faced with the austerity in Europe that will dismantle the social gains made since 1945. Yves Smith of naked capitalism says Greek hospitals are heading rapidly down the drain:






Many writers tend to depict the effects of austerity in purely economic terms: loss of wealth and income, lesser income/social mobility. But depressions and accompanying changes in social norms can and do have more serious consequences.

A story in Bloomberg illustrates how the combination of budgets slashed thanks to austerity policies leads directly to deaths. The Wall Street Journal described last year how distress in the Greek economy had produced a significant increase in suicides. A new Bloomberg story recounts how severe cutbacks in hospital staffing have enabled superbugs that is hard to combat even under normal circumstances to inflict even more fatalities than usual in Greek hospitals. An ugly side to this problem is that overreliance on antibiotics in Greece created the conditions that helped these potent infectious agents to develop.

From Bloomberg:

Greek doctors are fighting a new invisible foe every day at their hospitals: a pneumonia-causing superbug that most existing antibiotics can’t kill.. The hospital-acquired germ killed as many as half of people with blood cancers infected at Laiko General Hospital, a 500-bed facility in central Athens.

The drug-resistant K. pneumoniae bacteria have a genetic mutation that allows them to evade such powerful drugs as AstraZeneca Plc’s Merrem and Johnson & Johnson’s Doribax. A 2010 survey found 49 percent of K. pneumoniae samples in Greece aren’t killed by the antibiotics of last resort, known as carbapenems, according to the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network. Many doctors have even tried colistin, a 50-year-old drug so potent that it can damage kidneys…

Greece has the lowest nurse-to-patient ratio in Europe and one of the highest rates of antibiotic use — and abuse — on the continent, hindering the attack on the infection…

The superbug, dubbed KPC, first appeared in Greece in 2007 after spreading through the U.S. and then Israel. By 2010, Austria, Cyprus, Hungary and Italy were also experiencing an increase in cases, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said in a surveillance report in December.

In the worst outbreaks, as many as half of the people who develop a blood infection due to KPC are killed…

While Greece is striving to curb KPC, the country faces fewer problems with multi-drug resistant, so-called Gram- positive bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, the superbug better known as MRSA, than do other nations, said Spyros Pournaras, an associate professor of medical microbiology at the University Hospital of Larissa…

“We have problems,” he said in an interview in Athens. “But let’s not generalize that we’re a threat for Europe.” Greece also doesn’t have so-called Gram-negative bacteria with gene mutations known as NDM, IMP and OXA-48, which are common elsewhere, Pournaras said…

Another issue is the lack of nurses, Dimopoulos said. For example, an overworked nurse might change a catheter or a wound dressing without washing her hands, he said — a prime opportunity for bacteria to hop from one patient to another.

He held up his hands. “This is number one,” Dimopoulos said, for transmission of the bacteria. “This and the stethoscope.”

I don’t know about you, but this has a Dickensian sound to it. People dying in droves due to chronic hospital understaffing sits uncomfortably with the pristine, efficient image of modern medicine. But this is far from the only instance where the crisis has served to reinstitute a more brutal social order

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is a distinct difference between the "club med" southern European countries and the more responsible northern states. It's the southern states that are in financial trouble. If I had 300 days of sunny warm weather such as the PIGS I'd wouldn't want to work for my keep either.

Conchscooter said...

the problem is no one in the Euro zone figured out how to mesh countries with disparate economies. Greece hid portions of their debt through Goldman Sachs shenaigans and the "responsible" euro zone countries didnt see through the charade. Now they are stuck.

Anonymous said...

It is highly probable that GS will never be held to account for their deception regarding existng Greek debt.

What you describe are symptoms, my original premise on cultural differences between the north and south is the disease.