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Hellenic Navy Medical Mission on Greek Islands

Photographer: Yannis Kolesidis

 

Greece covers an area of 131,957 square kilometers. About 16,000 square kilometers belong to its coastline, of which 7,500 km are located on the islands of the Greek archipelago, a truly unparalleled phenomenon for the European continent.

 

Life on these islands during the summer is an enviable destination for Greek and foreign visitors. Beaches with crystal clear waters, traditional settlements, welcome millions of tourists every year.

 

But what happens during the winter when visitors desert these enchanting destinations?

 

The population decreases dramatically leaving 200-700 permanent inhabitants on these islands. Life for these people can be very tough. Coastal connections between the islands and the major urban centers are reduced to once per week. As a result, the access for islanders to large hospitals and to an experienced medical and nursing staff is almost impossible.

 

With the difficulties that everyday life presents on the islands during winter time, make them an unpopular destination for young doctors. Staffing of multiple clinics is often unfeasible. These reasons, combined with the ongoing economic crisis that plagues the country, create extremely difficult conditions for the residents to monitor their health.

 

The Greek Navy has come up with the solution by organizing medical missions to the islands of Greece. Three to four times a year a warship transfers military doctors of various specialties from Navy, Land and Air forces of Greek Army, along with equipment and nursing staff, to offer medical care to island residents. The missions use existing medical facilities but also classrooms in order to provide medical attention. Doctors and their staff have always been received with great enthusiasm by the islanders. Local products such as olives and oil, along with wishes and thanks, are the gifts doctors receive from locals every night as they leave their island to sail on to the next one.