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Greece's rundown state hospitals are cutting off vital drugs, limiting non-urgent operations and rationing even basic medical materials for exhausted doctors as a combination of economic crisis and political stalemate strangle health funding.
With Greece now in its fifth year of deep recession, trapped under Europe's biggest public debt burden and dependent on international help to keep paying its bills, the effects are starting to bite deeply into vital services.
"It's a matter of life and death for us," said Persefoni Mitta, head of the Cancer Patients' Association, recounting the dozens of calls she gets a day from Greeks needing pricey, hard-to-find cancer drugs. "Why are they depriving us of life?"
Outside one of the 133 state hospitals - whose managers have sometimes been appointed as supporters of whichever political party was in power at the time - a banner put up by protesting staff reads "Hospitals Belong to the People". Inside, its gloomy labyrinth of corridors tell a different story.
A doctor at the university hospital in the northwestern Athens suburb of Chaidari cites a lack of basic examining room supplies in her own department, such as cotton wool, catheters, gloves and paper used to cover the examining table.
The shortage of paper, which is thrown out after each patient has used it, means corners have to be cut on hygiene.
Even before the crisis, public hospitals were under strain and the notorious cash-filled "fakelaki" or "little envelope" which patients have had to hand over to get good treatment have become a byword for the corruption in the system.
As the crisis has bitten, ever more Greeks can no longer afford to pay. Rocketing unemployment has meant many have fallen behind with insurance contributions or have trouble paying the 10-25 percent of prescription costs not covered by the system.
"The health system has shut its door in their face," said Katerina Avloniti, a 27-year-old psychologist at a free medical clinic in Athens whose patients are no longer eligible to get a blood test, a cardiogram or a simple check up.