By Constantinos Psillides
HEALTH Minister Petros Petrides yesterday slammed a proposal by the state doctors’ union PASYKI that money be cut from elsewhere in the health system to pay their overtime.
Speaking at a press conference, Petrides said: “We have €58 million less to spend. It’s not fair and it doesn’t make sense to cut just from one part of the health sector so that others can remain untouched,” said Petrides. Transferring funds was not in the ministry’s plans to deal with the situation, he said.
There are 15 different overtime pay scales, depending on doctors’ specialties. The ministry’s goal was to mould all of the specialties into one so people won’t abuse the system. The doctors also demanded a cap on patients each doctor could see as well as defining the work conditions of doctors in rural areas.
PASYKI head Maro Kontou on Wednesday blamed the ministry for the stalemate in negotiations. The minister’s response was immediate.
“Do not provoke me. If you do, I will speak of things you do not want to be made public,” said the minister. He said the blame solely lay with the unions and their demands.
The health ministry is in the middle of revamping the overtime compensation payment system, after it was pointed out by Auditor General Chrystalla Georghadji and troika technocrats that it was broken and was frequently abused by the doctors.
Around €8m was paid in 2013 for overtime. The health ministry’s budget for 2014 allocated €6.5m as a part of the €58m in cutbacks due to austerity measures.
Both sides have been in negotiations for the last three months.
Petrides accused PASYKI of constantly changing their position on the subject and making more and more demands. “We had agreed on a negotiation framework on November 4. On November 16 PASYKI sent their first letter with their demands. They sent another on the 25th, two letters in December and two letters in January. Their demands increased and steered away from the already agreed upon framework,” the minister said, adding that in some cases the letters were conflicting.
“They are not consistent. They don’t know what they want”, said Petrides.
The minister said that according to the auditor general, many doctors took advantage of the current overtime system. “Claims made by the doctors couldn’t be verified. Rules and regulations regarding the overtime were not followed and doctors had the tendency of chalking up massive overtime. In some cases doctors reported 14 hours overtime over their eight-hour schedule. For us that was unacceptable and that’s why we opted to change it,” said Petrides.