Over 70 Community leaders participated in “the call to action” of the Presidents of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce and the Hellenic Medical Society of New York
New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Over 70 representatives of Greek American organizations and community leaders, responding to the invitation of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce and its President Markos Drakotos, participated in a conference call aiming to build a sustained platform to address real life needs of the Greek Community. Besides Markos Drakotos, Dr. Panagiotis Manolas, President of the Hellenic Medical Society of New York and Chief of General Surgery, Ambulatory and Outpatient Services for Lenox Hill Hospital, as well as the Consul General of Greece Dr. Konstantinos Koutras offered introductory greetings, Fr. Andreas Vithoulkas,, Chancellor of the Archdiocese, offered the invocation.
The effort has been described as “Call to action for the US and Greece” and with few exceptions – on medical and pharmaceutical assistance – most of the positions expressed were theoretical. One of the key participants told the “Greek News” that a follow-up call that is going to be held soon is going to be more focused on issues.
“The purpose of this call is to bring together all the major organizations that service, predominantly, the Greek community and are representative of a bridge to Greece”, Mr. Drakotos said in his opening remark.
“Each organization represented on this call brings a unique skill set with them both through the representative of the organization and the organization itself. Amongst all of us, we have the necessary tools to form a coalition of cohesiveness, which will not only survive during this pandemic but be used for future generations to address any issue which may arise.”
The President of the Chamber recognized that many people are doing something already and he applauded their efforts.
Describing this moment as “amber” for the Community, he said:
“When a child goes missing the police are alerted and they do the best that they can with their limited resources to bring the child home safely. However, when an amber alert rings on all our phones and is posted on every digital screen millions of eyes are focused on a cause. This is our AMBER moment.”
Drakotos told the participants that this unfortunate time has given us the opportunity to finally all come together for a common cause; but if we put in place the right infrastructure, build a platform, we could come together at a moment’s notice for any cause, whether it is in a time of great strife or even celebration.
“This platform of unity needs to be built by all of us for all of us. And I stress that this can only be accomplished if we all agree and build it together. In the agenda, we raise issues specific to a prolonged pandemic. Hopefully, none of what we address becomes necessary, but I hope that through this exercise, we can model a formula which we can use moving forward as one”, Drakotos said.
GREEK CONSUL GENERAL
In his intervention, Consul General of Greece in New York, Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, congratulated HACC’s initiative, as well as Mr. Drakotos and Dr. Panagiotis Manolas, for trying to add new lines of defense; and he encouraged all to help for this crisis not to morph into a social and financial epidemic.
Briefing the participants on the situation in Greeec, Dr. Koutras said that the case of Greece and the coronavirus shows that we CAN “beat” or at least “stall” the enemy.
“At this point Greece counts 26 deadly incidents in total. All it takes is discipline and we should
reinforce the “stay-at-home message” even further through everyone’s social media.”
On the initiative by the Community he suggested that since we need to avoid physical contact, if we establish a small number of monitored help points, we can distribute masks, gloves & sanitizers, together with information on how to contact volunteers who can deliver groceries to the elderly. And we can advertise these help points through our contact lists.
Pointing out that many members of the Greek American Community have access to what will become tomorrow’s salvation both in health and economy sectors – meaning the effort to develop a cure for the disease – he encouraged them to try to capitalize on it for the sake of Greece as well.
In concluding, the Greek diplomat told the Greek American leaders that Greece is facing in parallel another challenge.
“Turkey has been trying –unsuccessfully, for the moment – to destabilize Greece, using migrants as battering rams. To make matters even worse, Turkey might have been hiding its true coronavirus numbers. As you understand, our dual challenge is very demanding and will require all the help we can get.”
Dr. PANAGIOTIS MANOLAS
Dr. Manolas thanked Markos Drakotos for the initiative and he described how the two of them came with the idea, when they realized that for times of crisis the Community organizations – professional and non-professional – they don’t have a platform to communicate and solve problems.
He said that on his part he wanted to offer an updated as health provider who is in the first line of defense and to explain what he sees and what is happening to the Community.
“This communication we establish among all the societies in the United States is a good start and we need to continue on that. Nobody is to take credit on that because we are all concerned citizens of this country and citizens for Greece. Nobody is getting paid; we are just looking to do the best for our country, both the United States and Greece.”
Dr Manolas stressed the need for the Community to put resources together.
“The Consulate General has a tremendous data base and through it we can access many people; both to educate Greek Americans but also to be able to act immediately in the case of Turkish provocations against Greece.”
On the issue of the recent Coronavirus crisis, Dr. Manolas said that the Hellenic Medical Society of New York will make available to the Greek American media names of infectious disease specialists.
“We want to decrease the fear factor that affects all of us now”, Dr. Manolas said.
He explained that only 5% of all the people infected will require hospitalization and from them the mortality rate will be between 0.5 to 0.8%, agreeing with the article of Dr. Ioannidis of Stanford University.
He said that many physicians were forced to close their offices, having the staff either laid off or part-time.
“We cannot really carry the overhead, so there will be an issue until next month for our friends and compatriots in accessing health care services.”
He said that most hospitals have closed most of the outpatient offices and clinics until further notice.
“This creates a crisis for people that have medical problems like diabetes, or cancer; people that are on chemotherapy and they are trying to access their doctors and they can”.
Dr. Manolas suggested that especially for New York, “we have to create a plan, where the Medical Society can provide you with the names of 10-15 physicians who can trouble shoot; or establish telemedicine for those people, so they can access advice fast.”
As he explained, Governor Cuomo has removed the medical liability of this process, meaning no doctor will be sued for offering advice via telemedicine to a patient, at least for the time being.
The list will be available 24/7 at the Hellenic Medical Society’s web site, for people with unrelated to Covid medical conditions.
Dr Manolas also pointed out that a lot of the information published by the New York State and City medical authorities need to be translated in Greek, for the people that are not fluent in English.
He also briefed the participants on the situation in the hospitals that have cut down most of the surgeries unless it’s absolutely necessary.
“Don’t go to a hospital as a patient unless it’s for a serious condition. The hospitals are bad places to be right now. Don’t visit the emergencies for no serious reason”.
Manolas said that 3 out of his 8 partners are home with Covid19.
Finally he said that the Society is ready to do everything possible to educate the community.
Pharmacist Nikos Papaioannou of Crescent Apothecary, in Astoria, mentioned the frenzy about the medicine chloroquine that FDA allowed to be tested combined with azythromicyn for treatment of the Coronavirus.
“I tell all doctors and every patient that if you are tested positive and your doctor prescribes this treatment we will find it. But don’t get it just to hold it because there is shortage everywhere”.
He told the conference that he is available for getting medicine to the poor.
“There are doctors in the area sending me people and I am trying to help out, giving the medicines at cost or less.”
Dr. Manolas asked for Mr. Papaioannou’s assistance in securing regular medication for people that are unable to find their doctors to renew their medications. His goal is to create a group of pharmacists in New York to work closely with the Hellenic Medical Society. Nikos Papaionnou promised to be on board.
HANAC was represented at the call by President Evangeline Douris and Executive Director Stacy Bliagos. Mrs. Douris said that the senior citizens s were the priority of HANAC to take care of. And that the organization has Greek speaking staff to inform the community.
Stacy Bliagos said that as a social service nonprofit, HANAC’s mission is to help everyone in the community, especially the most venerable populations.
“During this pandemic, our Senior Center group activities were cancelled to help stop the spread of this virus but our Senior Centers remain open to serve congregate meals. The meals can be picked up or we can deliver it to their home.”
She said that in order for a person to receive a meal, they must sign up with their local Senior Center. The NYC Department for the Aging funds over 250 Senior Centers throughout the City of New York (within the 5 boroughs). A person will be asked for identification and must be 60 or above in age.
In addition, HANAC’s mental health services for the senior population are still open and operating via phone. A person must be a member of the Senior Center. To enroll in the Senior Center, a person can call 718-396-5004 or 718-396-5003. Once enrolled, a person can call 718-396-5005 to access our Mental Health Services.
Lastly, she said that HANAC has a TV show that airs on the NGTV channel every month, where they discuss all of HANAC’s services. The show is fully done in Greek and it has been airing for years.
Brief interventions were made by State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, Archdiocese’s legal advisor George Tsoungarakis, former USAID’s Director General Andrew Natsios, former U.S. Department of Energy Official John G. Vonglis, Archon’s National Commander Dr. Anthony Limberakis, , Philip Vogis of Hellenic Relief foundation and Leadership 100 executive director Paulette Poulos, who offered the full support of the organization to the effor. “Cosmos FM” President Stelios Taketzis underlined that first of all we should identify the needs.
The executive director of the Hellenic Initiative Peter Poulos briefed the Conference attendees on the assistance THI offers to Greece and he suggested that ship owners could assist in the effort to transport and store health related materials for Greece.
Clay Maitland, Managing Partner of the International Registries, LLC stressed the readiness of the Greek ship owners to undertake the effort of transporting the aid.