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  • The evening of April 13th, 2011, a fax arrived on the desk of Aris Mousionis, inspector general for Athens public hospitals. "All beds full. Request exemption from night duty."

    Public hospitals in Greece - free for all - rotate their emergency availability on a 24 or 48 hour basis. For Aris, former member of Doctors Without Borders, with experience in poor regions of Greece but also the Gaza Strip and Afghanistan, an out of commission hospital required finding another hospital that could serve the same geographical radius and making sure it was staffed (not easy) and equipped (also not easy on short notice) to handle the night emergencies, then notifying the ambulances.

    Something didn't sit right. Why tonight, of all nights, was Alexandra Hospital full? A woman's hospital.

    Fax in hand, without calling or texting ahead so he could show up without warning, he descended the two floors from his office next to the Pasteur Institute and walked alone to the hospital, about five minutes away. New on the job, shirt unbuttoned, sweating slightly, thick black hair sleeked back, when he entered the premises he looked more like a patient than the number one budget watchdog of Athens.

    He surprised the director in her office. He introduced himself and then ordered her to round up the troops: head nurse, accountant, inventory person, as well as all doctors available. Would they please join him for a brief head count of all hospital patients? After traipsing through the corridors and popping into each room, the final tally showed fifty empty beds. Fifty. So how come the fax? How come they were so "full" they could not accept any new patients that night? The hospital was caught in a lie.

    What had happened? The top floor had been "booked" by some doctors for their own private patients. So they had to shut the place down for newcomers. These doctors are paid directly by their patients but the costs are covered by the state. In short, the doctors were using the hospital as if they owned it, anesthesia for free, beds for free, nurses for free...

    Result: Five doctors were charged for corruption and sent to the Greek justice system.

    Working from a tip, Aris once sledge-hammered open a locked door ("nobody knows where the keys are, sir") in the dank basement of the Hippocrates hospital, right across the American Embassy. Inside was a million Euros worth of spanking new medical equipment -- ordered by the hospital and now to be sold for profit on a thriving black market.

    Result: Three hospital employees sent to the Greek justice system.

    For his unexpected raids and unswerving devotion to the cause, his friends have nicknamed Mousionis "Taliban." Someone you do not want showing up at your doorstep in the middle of the night, all sweated up, bearded and dark, shirt slightly open -- unless he's there to bum a cigarette.
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