Greek unemployed cut off from medicine
The change is particularly striking in cancer care, with its lengthy and expensive treatments. When cancer is diagnosed among the uninsured, "the system simply ignores them," Dr Syrigos said.
He said, "They can't access chemotherapy, surgery or even simple drugs."
The health care system itself is increasingly dysfunctional and may worsen if the government slashes an additional €1.5 billion in health spending, which it has proposed as part of a new austerity plan aimed to lock down more financing.
With the state coffers drained, supplies have gotten so low that some patients have been forced to bring their own supplies, like stents and syringes.
Hospitals and pharmacies now demand cash for drugs, which for cancer patients can amount to tens of thousands of euros, money most of them do not have.
With the system deteriorating, Dr Syrigos and several colleagues have decided to take matters into their own hands.
Earlier this year, they set up a surreptitious network to help uninsured cancer patients and other ill people, which operates off the official grid using only spare medicines donated by pharmacies, some pharmaceutical companies and even the families of cancer patients who died.
In Greece, doctors found to be helping an uninsured person using hospital medicines must cover the cost from their own pockets.
At the Metropolitan Social Clinic, a makeshift medical centre near an abandoned US air force base outside Athens, Dr Giorgos Vichas pointed one recent afternoon to plastic bags crammed with donated medicines lining the dingy floors outside his office.
"We're a Robin Hood network," said Dr Vichas, a cardiologist who founded the underground movement in January.
"But this operation has an expiration date," he said.
"People at some point will no longer be able to donate because of the crisis. That's why we're pressuring the state to take responsibility again."
In a supply room, a blue filing cabinet was filled with cancer drugs. But they were not enough to take care of the rising number of patients knocking on his door. Many of the medicines are forwarded to Dr Syrigos, who set up an off-hours infirmary in the hospital three months ago to treat uninsured cancer patients Dr Vichas and other doctors in the network send his way.
Dr Syrigos' staff members consistently volunteer to work after their official shifts; the number of patients has risen to 35 from five.
"Sometimes I come home tired, exhausted, seeing double," said Korina Liberopoulou, a pathologist on site one afternoon with five doctors and nurses.