From London back to Greece to support the National Health System
The transition from Brain Drain to Brain Gain, from the great exodus of workers of all specialties from Greece during the crisis to their gradual return, is a very big and difficult gamble that will keep us busy for several years to come.
The “wave” of economic emigration from Greece was observed even more in the medical sector, which has an impact even today, since the staffing of the NHS with medical nurses, as well as the return of thousands of doctors who emigrated abroad during the years of the memoranda, were recently addressed by the Plenary Session of the country’s Medical Associations. According to the recent OECD survey in the summer of 2023, it is estimated that since 2010 – the time when our country entered the regime of memoranda and surveillance – and until today, 20,000 Greek doctors have left abroad, seeking better working conditions and better pay.
Since 2019, there has been a gradual decrease in the number of medical staff emigrating and an increase in the number of doctors returning to our country, as part of the Brain Gain. One of them is 46-year-old Christos Kontovounisios, who, speaking to ygeiamou, explains the reasons that made him return to Greece and strengthen the NHS.
A general surgeon, specialised in colorectal surgery, PhD from the Athens Medical School with many publications, in 2012 he completed the last six months of his residency at the Royal Marsden Hospital London’s specialist Oncology Hospital under the supervision of the internationally renowned Professor of Surgery at Imperial College, Mr. Paris Tekki.
He started working in reference hospitals in General and Bowel and Rectal Surgery in London and then trained in the management of difficult cases of colorectal cancer and received specialisation in robotic surgery in the colon as well as advanced colorectal cancers and recurrences of the disease.
From 2016, he pursued an academic surgical career at Imperial College University and in November 2018 progressed to Associate Professor following a process of annual appraisal and requirements relating to publications, student supervision and research.
“From the very first moment my wife and I, also a Medical Surgeon with great expertise in breast surgery, wanted to come back. However, when you move abroad it is difficult to leave and return,” he points out, but as it turned out, the time was right for him too.
In April 2023, the Ministry of Health went ahead to advertise for Coordinating Directors in public hospitals. “It is a position with potential, which in the past did not exist. It gave me what I needed to come back since no such position had been advertised for many years in the NHS” , says Mr. Kontovunisio.
With the ambition that the second surgical clinic, where he will be based, will be second to none to those abroad and will be able to treat even the most difficult cases of colorectal cancers, Mr Kontovounisios has accepted the position of Coordinating Director at Evangelism and his appointment is expected to be issued, while he has maintained his academic activity in England in an honorary role.
“Evaggelismos is one of the largest hospitals in our country providing high quality health services, drawing on the expertise and long scientific and management experience of its staff.
Public hospitals in Greece are able to handle extremely serious cases,” says Kontovounisios, who praises the level of Greek doctors: “The level of doctors is very high. And I am telling you this as I have had the opportunity to meet many foreign doctors. The Greeks are not inferior to the medical staff of other countries and I hope the Brain Gain concept will continue and thrive. From there on every healthcare system has its positives and negatives. Greece lacks two important elements in education . One is specializations. The second is that during residency, a more structured curriculum is needed for the resident.”