Autonomous well-being: Self-organising health care in Exarcheia

It is far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.


Revolution begins in the everyday, in the constitution-resistance of autonomous, self-managed social relations in the many spheres of life that make collective existence not only possible, but free.

From the unicorn riot media collective,  a report on the self-organisation of health care in the neighbourhood of Exarcheia, Athens …

Greece: ADYE, Exarcheia’s Free Self-Organized Healthcare Clinic

July 3, 2017

Athens, Greece – As the healthcare debate in the United States crescendos with both dominant political parties sparring over how best to ensure not everyone has health insurance, Unicorn Riot journalists visited Greece, where austerity measures imposed by the bailout of 2010 have ravaged the healthcare system by capping healthcare spending.

Clinics and hospitals have been lacking medicines, supplies, and doctors. Some locals say the healthcare system is slowly getting better, and that patients can receive help even with no insurance. Yet others, such as members of the ADYE health clinic operating out of self-organized K Vox squat, have taken it upon themselves to organize patient-centered healthcare for the greater community, free of charge.

Unicorn Riot spoke to Lefteris and Manolis, respectively a doctor and a dentist who both provide their services free of charge at ADYE health clinic, about the origins of ADYE and what it is, as well as what is provided there and why they are in existence.

ADYE operates out of K Vox, where they are not required to pay rent. The free clinic provides a wide range of free healthcare services, including dental, mental, and physical care, and is often open during times of riots in Athens to provide first-aid.

“It’s an attempt by the community to build first-aid primary healthcare for the neighborhood of Exarcheia … It was created for the neighborhood but it is open to everyone, except for fascists.” – Lefteris, a volunteer doctor at ADYE

The Assembly of ADYE is a self-organized working group that began four years ago, consisting of a wide range of workers including physical therapists, psychologists, doctors, nurses, dentists, and more. Their goal has been to help provide the community with healthcare during the crisis. The Assembly meets regularly to discuss the needs of the clinic, but also to discuss agenda points, such as giving access to media organizations like Unicorn Riot to document their alternatives.

Lefteris has been volunteering time and working with the ADYE Assembly for over three years now.

“I offer my time and my knowledge to help people manage with daily health problems.” – Lefteris

Medical supplies and equipment used inside of ADYE are all taken in as donations. Solidarity is shown from people in Greece and from around the world. As an example of years of solidarity, convoys of vehicles from France, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, and beyond, continually make their way into Exarcheia and ADYE to bring supplies. This international solidarity has been directly attributing to creating better conditions for the worst affected by the economic crisis and the ‘refugee crisis’.

“With the opportunity of the economic crisis, we wanted to give another example of help, in general. So, this means that this is free with no exchange unit.” – Lefteris

In the first two years of ADYE’s existence, the patients were mainly Greeks. Lefteris said that since the ‘refugee crisis’ in 2015, the majority of the patients treated at ADYE are some of the 1,600-plus refugees who are provided free housing by anarchists in self-organized squats in the area. ADYE has a working relationship with a multitude of squats in the Exarcheia district.

Anarchists and others throughout Greece, specifically in Exarcheia, have been providing mass amounts of support to many refugees in the area even though the crisis has slowed recently with the 2016 EU – Turkey Refugee Deal. This support extends to these healthcare services, which also includes important psychological care as many of the refugees are fleeing from trauma and war.

“It didn’t change the way we provide health [care]. Health [care] is the same thing for Greeks, Americans, and fellow brothers from Iran or Syria.” – Lefteris elaborating on treating the large influx of refugees

Doctors at ADYE attempt to “provide a different approach” than hospitals and seek to understand their patients before applying any remedy to their situation. As Lefteris stated, “The main problem is poverty, is insecurity, is loneliness in the community.” Those issues can exacerbate one’s health, and ADYE has experienced good results from caring about and taking time with their patients.

Manoulis, one of the dentists within ADYE, said that he has been practicing dentistry in the Exarcheia area for decades, and volunteers his time once a week to provide free dental care. He has been involved in the Assembly of ADYE for two years now.

“Generally we believe as the self-organization grows, the healthcare system could be improved and must be patient-centered, not driven by money.” – Manolis, a volunteer dentist at ADYE

Manoulis also explained that the Assembly of physical therapists, psychologist, doctors, nurses, dentists, and more meet to make decisions together on how the clinic operates.

“Because ADYE is a self-organized structure, all decisions are taken by a majority within the Assembly. We have a horizontal structure, we are all equal, there are no leaders or presidents.” – Manolis

Lefteris said that he wants to see free health clinic cells in operation around the world:

“I hope that this multiplies and spreads through the society. I think it’s a way that society self-organizes against all of the things that suppress them. It is another way of making connections to the community. It’s a way of making connections without money.” – Lefteris

As far as creating the health clinic, Lefteris said that if people have the will to make it, they can easily create their own.

“If people really come together and discuss and really talk about the problems, solutions are there. And they were always there, but sometimes you cannot see what’s obvious.” – Lefteris

ADYE has provided a blueprint for communities around the world to self-organize and create better healthcare and a healthier citizenry on the whole. With Greece going through a massive economic depression, witnessing the compassion, solidarity, and care that ADYE provides for its patients is beyond commendable, and vastly outshines in comparison to the United States healthcare system driven by profit.


Authored by Niko Georgiades | Edited by Lorenzo Serna and Jenn Schreiter

Video: Main Editor & Camera Andrew Neef. Hosted by Niko Georgiades

For a more detailed discussion about what an anarchist public health care might look like, and what ideas might sustain it, see the essay by Marcus Hill, Fragments of an Anarchist Public Health (click here). 

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