Interview: Pavlos Methenitis | Photo: Nikos Zappas
It took a fair bit of hard work to establish trust with the community
He’s dynamic, straightforward and blunt. A man of few and measured words, a man of action and deeds, with the air and tone of an army officer, like Stavros Xenides’ character from the black-and-white movie classic “And let the wife see that she respects her husband” delivering his trademark line: “I’m a military officer and Ι don’t mince my words!” Despite appearances, Yiannis Tsigonias is not an army man; he’s a surgeon.
It’s 9 pm. at Paros Medical Center, a private outpatient clinic, in Parikia, and its founder, Yiannis Tsigonias, is treating what seems to be an urgent case: a little girl with a broken arm. This is a high-end, state-of-the-art, spotlessly clean centre, on a par with its Athens counterparts – patients couldn’t possibly tell Mr. Tsigonias’ center has been operating since 1993, that is, for the last 23 years. Marpissa, Paros-born-and-bred to a non-medical family, he studied surgery in Athens and, during his rural practice in Paros Health Centre in 1987, he decided to leave public service and set up business on his native island.
“I was a bad public servant,” he says smiling. “I always want to have my own way.” The investment he made in 1993 to start his private diagnostic centre was quite substantial for the time – 200 million drachmas, most of which was spent on costly equipment. Nevertheless, he initially had to face the skepticism of his fellow islanders.
“It took a fair bit of hard work to establish the reputation and trust I now enjoy!”, asserts the director of the centre, which now employs four resident doctors (a surgeon, a cardiologist, a radiologist and a clinical pathologist), three administrative staff members and three paramedics. He works from morning till 10 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays, and is practically always available on his mobile. “We serve 30% of the Parian population, not counting the tourists, of course,” says Mr. Tsigonias, proud of his achievements.
This is indeed something to boast about. He has seen several doctors who visit Paros “with self-seeking motives” come and go – “how long can they last?” The island is currently attracting “every Tom, Dick and Harry… Adventurism, freedom and democracy have their downsides, you know…”. But when it comes to colleagues who are as conscientious as he is, he has nothing but praise.
Mr. Tsigonias makes a final no-minced-words comment, this time about the general level of Public Health in Paros. Public health is facing challenges. “The Prefecture and the Ministry of Health are to blame for the poor quality of the services provided,” he claims, pointing out that “the two pediatricians serving in the local health centre have retired, leaving the island without pediatric care… The Ministry has no resources, both the National Health Service organisation and insurance companies are withholding payments, people are out of money…”. These are trying times for everyone, but Yannis Tsigonias declares himself an optimist by nature, as he kindly brings our meeting to a close. It’s almost 10 p.m. but he can’t call it a day yet – he’s been called by a patient, as his secretary informs him.