Psychiatric Patients Tied to Their Beds in Greek Hospitals

Saturday, November 28, 2009 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: psychiatric patients, medical malpractice, health news

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(NaturalNews) Standards of care at Greek mental hospitals are still so atrocious that the European Union has threatened to cut funding for social projects if the country does not clean up its act.

"The system is in a state of reform, but I have to say that if patients are attached to their beds for hours or days, that's totally unacceptable," said Vladimir Spidla, the European Commissioner for Social Affairs. "For me it's sad that this exists in the European Union."

In 1989, a worldwide scandal erupted when photos were released of naked psychiatric patients restrained by chains in a hospital on the Greek island of Leros. Earning the name "island of the damned," the hospital was condemned as the worst mental health facility in Europe. Since then, however, reform has come slowly.

A BBC reporter observed widespread physical restraint of mental patients at Dromokraitio Psychiatric Hospital, one of the two main psychiatric hospitals in the capital city of Athens. One woman was seen tied to her bed by a belt around her leg. When the reporter asked if the woman might remain restrained for years, a staff psychologist answered, "Yes, definitely."

"Just like a dog you tie up to stop it wandering off," said resident psychiatrist Yiorgos Astrinakis. "This could be considered the veterinary approach to psychiatry."

The same facility keeps patients in bare rooms with no mental or social stimulation. Walls and windows are falling apart.

Lack of funds have created a situation where many facilities cannot afford to hire enough staff to provide basic care to their patients. Complicating matters, there is insufficient supervision to make sure that European Commission guidelines are actually being followed.

"There are huge problems in terms of culture and mentality among health care professionals," said Pavlos Theodorakis, who represents the Greek ministry of health at the World Health Organization.

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