Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis explained on Monday at the official opening of the European Centre of Excellence for Quality in Care and Patient Safety, established in Athens by the World Health Organisation, the current COVID-19 situation in Greece.
"I am happy for three reasons: Because I am back at work after my Covid adventure, and I can assure you that the vaccines are effective and safe," Mitsotakis said.
"We have an obligation to further strengthen the national health system, to make it more resilient but also to upgrade the quality of care," he continued.
"The pandemic highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of the national health system. We have to get used to living with covid in the long term," the prime minister said.
"I want to ensure that, regardless of where one lives in Greece, one will have quality medical services," he added.
Mitsotakis also welcomed the announcement, coinciding with the opening of the centre, of a programme to protect the mental health of children and adolescents in the WHO Europe region.
The Prime Minister noted that children and adolescents are the most vulnerable members of society and that their mental health is very important, adding that they should have the best possible care in terms of their mental health.
Praising the "amazing work done by all our health professionals" during the pandemic, Mitsotakis noted that the last two years had highlighted both the system's strengths but also its weaknesses, especially the unequal access to quality healthcare.
He pointed out that the fight against the pandemic was not over and it was now time to consider how to coexist with Covid in the long term, what this meant as regards vaccination policy and precautions.
The Prime Minister also spoke at length about the philosophy behind the planned changes to the national health system:
"I want to ensure that in Greece, regardless of where one happens to live, regardless of whether they have access to a regional hospital or one of the top university hospitals in a big city, we will have uniform standards in the quality of healthcare."
Mitsotakis said that this meant looking at healthcare as a continuum that started with public health and prevention, involved major reforms for primary healthcare and a re-examination of the way that hospitals and post-hospital care operated in the country.
"We are here to tear down practices where there is no cooperation or collaboration, vested interests and all those that do not view healthcare from the point of view of the end user...the citizen who deserves the best healthcare, especially in this complex, post-pandemic world," he said.
New WHO child mental health programme
The WHO programme for the mental health of children announced on Monday will cover 53 countries that are in the WHO Europe region. It was originally prompted by a proposal put to WHO Regional Director for Europe, Hans Kluge, by the prime minister.
Recollecting the meeting where Mitsotakis suggested that priority be given to mental health issues, especially among the young, Kluge noted that "we listened to your advice and are grateful for your support".
He also emphasised the close cooperation between the WHO and Greece, noting that the opening of the new centre will put Greece in a position to take the lead on issues that concern improving healthcare quality throughout the region.
Mitsotakis, on his part, stressed that there must be an end to the stigma and the taboos attached to mental health issues and also the need to provide the best possible support in an extremely difficult and complex world, where the challenges ranged from bullying to eating disorders, to identity issues and teens living in both a real and virtual world.
Other speakers at the event included Development and Investments Minister Adonis Georgiadis, Health Minister Thanos Plevris, Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias, Alternate Health Minister Mina Gaga and Deputy Health Minister Zoi Rapti.