The deal between the government and the state hospitals’ nursing unions has sparked unrest among various other healthcare professional groups, who now demand to be treated equally, it emerged on Monday.
The deal which includes a key provision for the alignment of nurses’ salaries with their academic credentials was reached tentatively last Friday at a meeting between the unions had and President Nicos Anastasiades. It is scheduled to be followed by a second meeting on Tuesday, at which final decisions will be made.
Although details of the proposed arrangement have not yet been released, the government has agreed to recognise nurses’ university level degree status for purposes of pay-scale ranking, albeit in a staggered, incremental manner. This will be introduced in parallel with the process of rendering state hospitals financially and administratively autonomous prior to rolling out the national health system (Gesy) in 2020.
Nurses have been demanding the upgrade for a year, following a 2009 parliamentary decision legitimising their demand that was subsequently shelved due to the economic crisis.
Last February, state hospitals were all but paralysed when nurses staged a series of strikes lasting over a month, but were met with the government’s refusal to engage.
The issue seems to have been resolved in Friday’s meeting, when the president pledged to satisfy the nurses’ demands.
Predictably, news of the agreement sparked protest by other healthcare professional groups who feel entitled to similar treatment.
The Pancyprian Association of Physiotherapists said the decision, which excludes this specialty, was unfair.
“I don’t see the logic behind this move,” association chief Lakis Droushiotis told online news portal Sigmalive.
“The two professions are equally serious, in our view, and we hold comparable degrees.”
Similar arguments were made by radiologist technicians.
This development was one of the key concerns raised by employers’ association OEV on Friday, as soon as the deal was announced.
“Meeting [the nurses’] demands will open the bag of Aeolus and bring about a chain reaction in several other demands that will cause the state payroll to skyrocket once again to levels our economy can’t manage,” the association had said in a statement.
OEV chief Michalis Antoniou said on Monday that the business world is “unbelievably disheartened” because the sacrifices and pain the public had endured in order to help the economy recover were being squandered.
“There are other groups in the public with greater, far more pressing needs, which could be supported with the meagre surpluses achieved with these sacrifices,” he said.
“On the other hand, if I were a doctor, I wouldn’t set foot even in the hospital’s parking lot if my pay-scale weren’t at least twice that of nurses.”
The door had been opened, Antoniou said, and once the door was open anything could go through.
“We seem to forget that the economy still has feet of clay,” he said.
“We are doing better, but we are not well yet.”
According to a recent study by government services, the cost of the move would run to some €33 million.
But nurses’ union Pasyno chief Panayiotis Georgiou said the decision’s fiscal impact would be moderate, claiming the net cost to the state would be €9 million, and that four years from now.
“The deal includes certain structural measures that will alleviate the ensuing fiscal cost,” he said.
“We have made certain concessions so that the cost can be contained.”