ATHENS – A team of military medics that descends on Greek islands in the Aegean Sea three or four times a year has once again been offering their services to residents who otherwise have little access to regular health care.
The islands are popular tourist destinations in summer and welcome millions of Greek and foreign visitors annually, as their beaches offer crystal-clear waters and idyllic traditional settlements.
But in winter, the population reduces drastically, and between 200-700 permanent residents are left on the islands.
Life there can be tough, with coastal connections between the islands and major urban centers reduced to just once a week.
As a result, access to large hospitals and experienced medical professionals is almost impossible for the islanders.
With the difficulties that everyday life presents during winter, the islands are unpopular destinations for young doctors, and the staffing of multiple clinics is often unfeasible.
This situation, combined with the ongoing economic crisis plaguing Greece, makes it difficult for residents to monitor their health and access health care on a regular basis.
The Greek Navy has come up with a solution by organizing medical missions to the islands: a Hellenic Navy warship transfers military doctors specialized in various fields, nurses and medical equipment from the navy, land and air forces to the Greek islands.
Epa images showed several elderly patients undergoing checkups on the islands of Anafi, Folegandros, Sikinos, Lipsi, Tilos, among them 87-year-old Kosmos Segredos, whose appointment was held in a classroom.
The missions use existing medical facilities, as well as classrooms in order to provide medical attention to those who need it.
Doctors and their staff have always been received with great enthusiasm on the part of the islander patients, who present them with local produce, such as olives and oil, and messages of thanks as they prepare to leave an island to sail on to the next.