Meanwhile, across the Channel in London, academics were preparing to release a study in "The Lancet" on the healthcare crisis
that has followed deep budget cuts in Southern Europe.
One of that work's principal researchers, David Stuckler of Oxford University, warned that not just Greece, but also Spain and Portugal, faced a potential
healthcare disaster due to their own steep budget cuts.
Yet of the three crisis-stricken countries, Greece seems to have suffered the most.
"Greece is an example of perhaps the worst case of austerity leading to public health disasters," Mr. Stuckler explained in a telephone interview.
"After mosquito spraying programs were cut, we've seen a return of malaria, which the country has kept under control for the past four decades. New HIV
infections have jumped more than 200 percent," he noted.
Malaria returned because municipal governments lacked the funds to spray against mosquitoes. HIV spiked because government needle exchange programs ran out
of clean syringes for heroin addicts. By Stuckler's estimate, the average Greek junkie requires 200 clean needles in a given year.
"But now they're only getting three a year each," Stuckler said.
Athenian drug addicts sharing needles or malaria-carrying mosquitoes biting Spartans have put Greece in the media spotlight over the past few months. But a
decidedly less headline-grabbing fact is this: cuts taken over the last two years could look even worse a few years from now.
"The thing about healthcare systems," the OECD's Ankit Kumar explained in a telephone interview, "Is you cut the money today, and start to see the cuts'
impact at least three to four years from now. You know that people aren't getting their medications. But it takes a couple of years before this manifests
itself in high levers or sickness, fewer people being able to work, and more people facing shorter lives. Given the consequences of what has happened in
Greece, these outcomes are just going to get worse and worse."
Some experts have suggested that Greece's budgetary ax fell unduly hard on its healthcare sector, which was slated to grow at around 4 percent annually,
but which has instead been jolted by a series of wage freezes, firings, and drug rationing programs. Economists around the world warned of the cuts'
consequences - but it was the Greeks themselves who opted for deep gashes to their healthcare system.
"IMF doesn't say 'you have to cut 10 percent of your economy, but you can't close hospitals or schools.' Where the cuts are made remains a country's
sovereign right," Kumar explained.
This spring has been an important time for healthcare research in Europe because data now confirm -- as if there were any doubt -- that in healthcare, too,
the gulf between Europe's north and its south has continued to widen.
Last year, while Greece went about adjusting to its new slimmed-down healthcare reality, German's ministry of health contacted the OECD for its help in
studying the exact opposite problem. German healthcare costs were ballooning, but only a third of the growth could be linked to Germans becoming sicker or