Dividing nurses into scientific and non-scientific staff in roughly equal proportion and introducing a rotating eight-hour shift schedule, are the key measures that will keep the cost of the government’s deal with nurses at state hospitals in check, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said on Wednesday.
Speaking on state radio, Georgiades attempted to explain away concerns over the government’s decision to agree to salary bumps for nurses who hold a university degree, arguing that this would not apply to all 3,200 nurses, and that future hires would aim to strike a balance between scientific and non-scientific personnel. This division would keep costs down, he said.
“We have found that this practice is implemented in all modern health systems in Europe,” Georgiades said.
“That is, not having everyone be scientific staff, but not having no one be scientific staff, either. Just maintain the proportions.”
In addition, the minister added, the measure’s fiscal impact is kept in check by an overhaul of the staff’s working hours.
“Eight-hour workdays will allow us to best utilise existing staff, thus avoiding having too much staff at work in the morning and not enough in the afternoon,” the minister explained.
“In which case, in the afternoon we would be paying too much in overtime. Yes, they will be paid a shift allowance, but the cost will be less if we introduce a rotating shift schedule of eight-hour shifts.”
Equally important, Georgiades said, was the fact that new recruits from now on will not hold civil-servant status.
“We never expected or demanded that a permanent civil servant might abandon a permanent job,” he said.
“The government can’t fire civil servants, so it wasn’t going to happen. But at least we secured that from now on hires will not be on civil-servant terms.”
The agreement will cost less than €15 million per year, the finance minister said, whereas handing out the salary upgrades to all nurses indiscriminately would have cost in excess of €30 million.
Still, Georgiades insisted on the need for a study on the financials of the national health system (Gesy) as a whole, since pay hikes – not just for nurses but also for doctors, per the proposed reform bills submitted to parliament – may prompt tax increases if hospitals’ budgets prove unsustainable.
“This is why I have been insisting that we need to review some of the assumptions made in existing studies from previous years,” he said.
“Gesy is going to work with civil-servant salaries. I am concerned about its financial viability, which is why I believe we should at least have a full picture. But, in any case, it was already known that if we want Gesy we need to pay up.”