United action for stronger quality of care in the European Region – WHO supports Greece in building a national health system for the 21st century

During his visit to Greece last week, WHO’s Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, opened a new centre of excellence in Athens focusing on quality of care and patient safety. Alongside the Minister of Health of Greece, Dr Vassilis Kikilias, the Regional Director spoke of the importance of this new office in working to strengthen quality of care in south-eastern and Mediterranean countries of the WHO European Region.

The Regional Director met with the Prime Minister of Greece, Mr Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and both spoke of the importance of the new centre, the Athens Quality of Care Office, which is the first sub-regional office in the history of WHO/Europe. Dr Kluge expressed his thanks to the Prime Minister and the government of Greece for the cooperation that led to the establishment of the new office, and highlighted the continued importance of collaboration on mental health and public health. The Regional Director also stressed the need for continued support to refugees and migrants in the country and the importance of investments in primary health care.

Health for all – regardless of circumstances

During his visit to the HELEXPO mega-vaccination centre, Dr Kluge spoke with health workers and expressed his deep appreciation for their invaluable work since the onset of the pandemic. This centre is one of 5 mega-vaccination centres around the country, accompanying over a 1000 smaller vaccination centres that have been able to roll out COVID-19 vaccines to over 1 million people in the country. The Regional Director commended the organization and implementation of Greece’s vaccination program. The importance of successfully rolling out the vaccination program was also a focal point of the Regional Director’s meeting with the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymos II. During the meeting, the Regional Director and Archbishop agreed on the role that faith-based organizations can play in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, and on the critical importance of mental health as well as refugee and migrant health.

Meeting with refugees and migrants at the Eleonas accommodation centre, Dr Kluge had the opportunity to hear about their lives and the challenges they had faced. The Regional Director also heard stories of health workers and the support they were providing to those staying at the centre. Leaving no-one behind in health is central to the European Programme of Work 2020–2025, United Action for Better Health, and Greece has demonstrated leadership in this area, providing health care and support to refugees and migrants.

High-level meetings and addressing Members of Parliament

As well as meeting frontline staff, Dr Kluge met with the Minister of Health, Alternate Minister for Health, Deputy Minister responsible for Mental Health and secretary generals from the Ministry of Health to discuss reforms to the Greek health care system, focusing on the 3 pillars of public health, mental health and primary health care reforms. With regard to public health, an area which has become all the more relevant during the current pandemic, the Regional Director addressed the Permanent Committee of Social Affairs of the Hellenic Parliament on the occasion of the presentation of the 5-year Public Health Action Plan, Spyros Doxiadis.

Regional Director awarded for his contribution to mental health

On the final day of his visit to Greece, the Regional Director was presented with the Gold Medal of Aristotle for his distinguished contribution to mental health, by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Dr Kluge praised the university for its ongoing work to better understand the impact COVID-19 has had on the mental health of people around the Region. Mental health is one of 4 flagship initiatives of the European Programme of Work and has become an issue of global concern amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

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