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State doctors return fire, accuse minister of hypocrisy

By Constantinos Psillides

State doctor’s union PASYKI fired back at Health Minister Petros Petrides yesterday, accusing him of hypocrisy on the matter of cutting back on doctors’ overtime pay.

According to Maro Kontou, head of PASYKI, when the minister worked as a state doctor he didn’t touch the subject but stood by as he and those around him received large amounts of overtime money.

Responding to the accusations, Petrides said he was looking for a way to change the overtime system back when he was working as a doctor. The minister added that the attorney general’s office did a probe on doctors’ salaries and concluded that although some doctors did abuse the system, it wouldn’t be fair to target doctors specifically because “everyone does it”. The AG report suggested that the whole system be overhauled.

Petrides added that auditor-general Chrystalla Georghadji repeats every year in her report that the overtime system in hospitals is broken and regularly abused by doctors.

The union and the minister are in the trenches regarding overtime pay as the ministry wants to drastically reduce it. The ministry is proposing a standard payment for overtime, better patient management so as state surgeons can operate on more patients and limiting the categories of specialties that are paid overtime to two.

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.

PASYKI retaliated, with Kontou saying it was unacceptable for the ministry to ask doctors to work overtime for an indefinite amount of time but limit the compensation to a fixed figure.

It has been previously reported that some doctors were receiving overtime payment equal to their salary. Being confronted by one such case, where a doctor received annual wage of €50,000 and €51,000 in overtime, Kontou responded saying that these were isolated cases and that the minister was in a position to investigate them but had failed to do so.

Petrides yesterday repeated his threat to PASYKI to spill their secrets. “If I told you what they requested of us during our negotiations, I would cause a lot of trouble. I’m a patient man but I’m at my limit,” he said.

The minister was referring to proposals tabled by PASYKI, in which they asked for funds to be allocated from other health services to cover their overtime.

The health ministry’s budget for overtime in 2014 is €6.3m down from €8m in 2013.

Petrides made clear that the health ministry could not allocate more for overtime, telling the doctor’s union to submit requests for more money to the finance ministry.

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