Greece could requisition private sector doctors, PM tells paper

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Intensive care unit at Sotiria hospital in Athens

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is prepared to requisition private sector doctors to assist in the public health system's battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, he said on Sunday, after a government call for help went mostly unheeded.

"If it will be necessary to use the ultimate constitutional tool, the requisitioning of personal services, I will not hesitate to do it," Mitsotakis said in an interview in Sunday's To Vima newspaper.

With Greece's public hospitals overwhelmed by surging COVID-19 infections and intensive care wards running out of beds, the government had called on private sector doctors to help out, saying 200 were needed.

So far only about 55 have heeded the call, the ERT state broadcaster said.

"I cannot imagine colleagues who took the Hippocratic oath not wanting to come and help these people in their battle (against COVID-19)," Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias, himself a medical doctor, said on Saturday outside a public hospital.

On Saturday Greek health authorities reported 2,535 new coronavirus cases and 60 deaths, bringing total cases to 235,611 with 7,421 deaths.

Mitsotakis told the paper that cooperation is always preferable as a first step and that obliging doctors to offer their services is not sufficient.

"We have to inspire them to do it," he said.

The government will start distributing free do-it-yourself COVID-19 tests next month, seeking to alleviate pressure on a healthcare system facing a stubbornly high level of new infections.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by David Goodman)