Solidarity clinics are a new institution which was created by the need for meaning to be produced towards a dual direction: on the one hand for those who need help and care and in whom the official state shows no interest, and on the other for those who need to declare their presence as people and citizens by organizing and participating in these efforts.
The common feature in all the statutes of social solidarity clinics we read was one: it is not about charity but solidarity and participation, through which the self and the other are recognized as persons and mutual empowerment emerges. The meeting and interdependence leads to companionship, with all the difficulties this entails.
In this issue of the journal we present the Solidarity Clinic of Heraklion Crete.
The last three years, given the implementation of the memorandum policy and the absolutely disappointing picture of the country because of this policy, there is a significant deterioration in the living standards for the majority of citizens. However, in many cities support actions are undertaken by anonymous citizens, people who do not want to stay idle and who consider health, education and culture as basic social rights. And so they move from mere watching to collective social action.
Solidarity clinics is one such support action. It is a volunteers’ initiative of solidarity which addresses the real need for healthcare and for which the state stays indifferent. At the same time, social practices highlight the political demand for operation of an upgraded public health system that will ensure fair, free and universal access of all citizens to quality care, regardless of the patient’s employment or insurance status.
In this sense, solidarity clinics and practices create an important security framework that tries to prevent health degradation for the weakest and most vulnerable citizens of the population (who are mainly affected), while ultimately aiming for their own abolishment once this constitutional obligation has become the responsibility of the state. Also, social practices showcase another model of practicing medicine and nursing characterized by social awareness and availability through selfless, collective, democratic self-organization and function.
In our city, the association “Social Solidarity Network of Heraclion” was created and embarked on its first action in March 2012, setting up the social medical practice-clinic to provide free primary healthcare services and medication to uninsured / indigent residents of the Heraklion municipality . This is not charity for passive recipients, but solidarity towards our fellow citizens through interactive processes (collective action, awareness-raising, a call to resolve the causes that led to the crisis, etc). All this is described in the SC’s general declaration of principles.
We first attended to the three key issues of institutional form (statute), volunteers (10 groups with coordinators), and facilities (originally the municipal medical-social center of Heraklion, and now a building of the University of Crete). We started in March 2012 with the GP / pediatric clinic and continued with the psychiatric clinic.
The staffing of the clinics and the pharmacy with doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, social workers, psychologists, health visitors, secretaries and clinic secretaries, technicians, workers and other support staff consists entirely of volunteers, members or friends of the network, motivated only by compassion and solidarity, without any economic, political or other commitments or connections. Working groups have been created by all of the above, which organized from scratch and upon social criteria all the processes necessary for the proper functioning of the clinics and the pharmacy.
In this clinic, any uninsured/indigent resident of the municipality may come in (the secretariat is open daily from 10 to 12 am and in the afternoons) or be referred by some organized entity (the social service of the Municipality or the hospitals, the Church, the Society of the unemployed, the Labor Center, the popular neighborhood assemblies, etc.).
The clinic now operates from a 270 sqm building in Knossos ave, provided by the University of Crete, and the opening hours are:
Tuesday 6 -9 pm pathological clinic
Wednesday 6 to 9 pathological clinic (2 doctors)
Friday 6 to 8 psychiatric clinic and psychological support from a psychologist
Saturday 10 to 13 am pediatric vaccination clinic
Moreover, many specialists such as cardiologists, pulmonologists, rheumatologists, surgeons, orthopedics, child surgeons, ophthalmologists, microbiologists, radiologists, etc. plus a number of diagnostic health centers and private clinics participate in the project and provide free services by appointment; the appointments are confirmed by our secretariat after referral by our 3 main clinics.
Principles of the Social Solidarity Clinic
1. The social solidarity clinic considers public health as one of the highest social rights, and its preservation and promotion as a constitutional obligation of the State.
2. Considers that the level of public health is determined by the sum of the potential health status of the members of this society and that the health of each individual is influenced by the overall health of all members.
3. Defends human dignity and maintains social cohesion through actions which exemplify morality, solidarity and sound policy, true to a vision of a society, where the constitutional rights of education, health and work will not be violated.
4. Demonstrates the existence of individuals who aim for a different policy and a different society in the service of man.
5. Contributes to the moral and political resistance of a citizens’ society against markets and market-oriented policies.
6. Considers that the current insensitive policy undermines the Welfare State and thus Public Health.
7. Acts through independent, self-organized social action, with no relation of subordination or control by any individuals or organizations, public or private.
8. It is open to donations and sponsorships and seeks cooperation with any individuals or organizations, public or private, consistent with its statutory declaration and subject to the approval of the general assembly of the Association.
9. Aims at its own abolishment, which will be achieved once society has forced the state to fully assume its responsibilities.
10. Considers that the way towards reconnection of the State Welfare and Public Health goes through democratic social and political struggles.
Our course to this day
Fermentations and intentions were always there, but it all started when a small group of motivated women with empathy for their fellow citizens and a tendency to resist against the “wrong” policies of the state, organized a social action on 30/11/2011 at the H.M.A.
On 1/2/2012, many citizens of this city gathered at the Labour Centre of Heraklion, 48 founding members signed the statute and since then, with great determination and selflessness, our volunteer members have achieved the uninterrupted operation of the clinic.
The first General Assembly was held on 31/10/2012 and a 7-member board was elected whose weekly meetings involve all team leaders and coordinators, in what is an expanded Board of management where all participants voice their opinion and ideas.
Difficulties were encountered on 3 levels: 1) among ourselves (managing the opposing views and then striking a balance between flexibility and prolonged participatory decision-making), 2) finding, mobilizing and inspiring volunteers / doctors / pharmacists / sponsors, etc (all based on personal relationships and initiatives of the original team). 3) In our dealing with authorities and the delicate balance between our demands and their attempt to influence our structure
The S.C. is a living organism, independent of authorities of all kinds, based on the contribution of volunteers, nurtured by the recognition of ordinary people and with the ultimate aim of self-abolition.
Speaking systemically, it is a social experiment with socio-political motives and human values, an intervention to the local community system based on the belief that in this way we counteract the entropy of the times and the marketplace in the sensitive area of health, and hoping to expand and mobilize people ‘against the tide’.