Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Heart-to-heart encounter with a private hospital in Greece


At 4 a.m. this morning, my future brother-in-law took himself to the hospital because he felt extremely ill. He errs on the side of safety because he’s barely 30, past scans detected a heart irregularity, and my future mother-in-law had a quadruple angioplasty last year. Heart disease is genetic. Add to this he smokes like a chimney, doesn’t exercise and eats poorly.

He has IKA, which entitles him to seek free health care in a state hospital, but decided to go to a private hospital in Athens at which he previously had a good experience. It claims to be associated with an Ivy League medical school.

With his medical history, he believed it was best to pay out of pocket and enjoy a higher standard of care with immediate attention, rather than wait hours at a state hospital that may not have a specialist on call.

The doctor performed a heart scan, which came back with poor results, so he did another and got the same results. Feeling alarmed and panicked by what he saw, he went ahead and told my future brother-in-law to have bloodwork and other tests run. Two hours later, all of these tests came back normal.

Baffled by this contradiction, he did another heart scan. This time it was OK. The doctor does another. Now it’s not OK! He does another. It’s not OK.

Finally it was revealed that the heart scanner is malfunctioning and needs maintenance.

There’s nothing like a little unnecessary stress from your heart doctor to aggravate a heart condition. At least he didn’t have to pay…well, not in euros, anyway.

In the News

Whistleblower jailed over bribes to Greek physicians” — Independent
Surgery done on wrong foot” — Eleftherotypia
Health system reflects Greece’s ills” — WSJ
Greeks seeking healthcare with envelopes of cash (fakelakia)” — Forbes

Related posts

Greece vs. EU and USA: Health care
Greek residents at mercy of unevaluated doctors
Clinics cheat insurance fund
IKA covers prescription medicine

Photo from

* Although I also had a poor experience with the hospital in this post, I cannot give its name for legal reasons. Readers are encouraged to share stories without direct references to the medical facility.


  λ:ηρ wrote @ September 30th, 2007 at 23:24

Glad to hear that it was happy end and that the problem was in the scanner (I guess we are talking about ultrasound, here right?).

What’s impressive Kat is that your fbil had the good judgment to seek medical assistance. He did not dismiss his discomfort as such but he felt necessary to have it looked at. This is good and, in my experience, unusual in Greece.

There is the other extreme, here, with people calling 911 a bit too liberally — I have worked EMS in two states. Still, it’s better to err on the safe side I guess.

  rositta wrote @ October 1st, 2007 at 12:11

My BIL keeps wanting to take me to the hospital for my bad chest cough but I’m refusing so far. I have not heard good things about hospitals and figure I can wait until I get home. Heart problems are somewhat different though and I’m glad it all worked out…ciao

  daniel wrote @ October 1st, 2007 at 12:19

I think i know which hospital you’re talking about and have to say that i had some bad experiences there too….the doctors are very trigger happy wanting to perform surgeries for the smallest things…almost convinced me that i need surgery to remove a part of my body because of a small infection that in the end was healed with some regular, over the counter antibiotic cream…

Kat Reply:

Daniel – I was thinking about your story just today, don’t know why. But thank God you had the good sense to walk away!

  Syd wrote @ October 1st, 2007 at 13:48

We had two weird but overall good experiences in Crete. My guy was feeling poorly due to what turned out to be caffeine sensitivity, but since we didn’t know what it was and he has a history of serious illness, we went to the Emergency.

The equipment was nearly antique and I walked his blood samples to the hematology lab myself. But the antique equipment worked fine and the blood samples were processed in less than an hour. The tests administered were everything I would have liked to see.

In the end, they dismissed him without treatment because there was nothing wrong with his BP, his heart, or his lungs. A few days later we figured out that the symptoms followed his morning coffee and that resolved the situation.

I just wanted to say that while I have massive complaints about a lot of things, we didn’t have any issues with the medical care. If it were an exotic or heavily researched illness, I might prefer treatment in Sweden, the UK, the US, France or Australia, but for general run of the mill illness, I assessed our Greek doctors as fully competent.

  graffic wrote @ October 1st, 2007 at 16:42

I know the best hospital in Greece, is 4 hours by plane, and its called “my mom”, (who works in a hospital). I’ll die in the airport but not in a Greek Hospital.

Why I’m being so harass with this? Because I had a close experience with this matter.

When I was in Ioannina, a friend from Spain (and also form my city), broke his big toe tendom playing soccer (we won at least). That night he went to the university hospital, and they told him that he needs surgery to fix that, but because in one week he will be in Athens, is better to wait and go to a doctor/hospital in Athens.

I returned to Spain and he went to the hospital in Athens with some papers from the previous Doctor. In Athens the Doctor booked the surgery for the next day and told my friend to go home to pick some clothes to stay there some days.

My friend returned to the hospital with the clothes, waited, waited, but the doctor refused to heal/cure/treat him as promised. The doctor told him to go to a private hospital.

Talking with some Greek friends, we become fully aware of the situation. The doctor was expecting an envelope with “black money” in order to apply the treatment, but because my friend didn’t bring “something” for the doctor, he refused to give the treatment.

After that experience, and because it was autum (cheap flights), my friend returned to Spain, and he went to the hospital (where my mother works, but my mother didn’t treat him). The doctor told him that he doesn’t need surgery, he blocked the big toe in a way for the tendom to fix by itself, and after two weeks he started to move a bit the toe.

Summary: public health in Greece , private health: I don’t know but I don’t wanna risk my life trying 😛

  Kat wrote @ October 1st, 2007 at 19:54

My FBIL was actually not OK. Since the machine was broken, he had to go to another hospital to be checked correctly and paid 2500 euros. He wasn’t having a heart attack, but his condition had been aggravated by the ordeal, he was checked and given some pills.

Other than being forced to a hospital to get two health certificates for my residence/work permit, I had a virus some years ago for which I only needed antibiotics and an incident last year in which this same hospital did nothing for me (and I solved it on my own). I’ve made a point of being healthy and conducting all of my medical checkups in the USA, Switzerland or Sweden. When my FMIL had a heart attack, we had to hand over a fakelaki and the doctor was not discreet about what he expected before the angioplasty. In fact, he told us it wasn’t enough and we had to call a cousin at 5:00 a.m. to bring more money.

My friend Evi had to do the same thing with her mother, father and herself; in fact, her husband once forgot and had to be called back to the hospital because the nurse/doctor refused to followup, change dressings, replace fluids after that. I’m sure there are good experiences out there (like Syd’s), I just don’t know anyone personally in my 10 years (sans fakelaki).

Recently my Greek counterpart went to a clinic to have his blood examined. The pathology staff decided to go home, they eventually found someone but lost his test. My FMIL had the wrong tooth pulled by her dentist. I could go on…

  KT wrote @ July 9th, 2008 at 01:20

Omg she had the wrong tooth pulled by her dentist???? That is freaking crazy!!! I had my share of problems with the Greek doctors, had to pay fakelakia a bunch of times for my family members and the treatment we got at the hospital was horrible too. Those hospitals are crazy

  Yanis wrote @ December 15th, 2008 at 12:40
  rositta wrote @ April 9th, 2010 at 19:50

I just read your heart to heart story again, I’d forgotten it. It has now been determined that a cat scan gives you 100 times more radiation than a chest x-ray. It’s making me hesitate to have even one even though it’s been recommended by the doctor. I’d hate to think how much radiation your future BIL got from a malfunctioning scanner…ciao

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