By Angelos Anastasiou
TENSIONS rose at the Limassol general during a visit by Health Minister Petros Petrides on Tuesday.
Petrides was visiting the hospital to address a situation which arose when the hospital’s administration, facing space pressures, decided to accommodate thalassaemic and chemotherapy treatments in a common area.
The decision was heavily protested by the Pancyprian Thalassaemia Association (PTA) whose members believe that physical proximity to chemotherapy treatment drugs puts them at undue risk, as accidental exposure to them may prove fatal due to their weak immune systems.
The minister visited the hospital on Tuesday to address the issue and met with the hospital’s administration in order to examine options.
Petrides’s subsequent tour of the ward sparked the reaction of thalassaemics who assaulted him verbally, while physical violence was threatened when some of the protesting patients managed to shove the minister, despite police efforts to restrain them.
Following consultation with hospital officials and a review of the premises, Petrides instructed administrators to adapt a temporary structure outside the hospital so that haematology patients’ chemotherapy sessions could be transferred there, announcing the construction work would take no more than one week.
“I have committed that appropriate alterations will be made to the existing structure, with sufficient office equipment and beds so that haematology treatments can be accommodated there, and have asked for one week’s patience until the work is completed”, he said.
The decision was hailed by the Thalassaemia Association but met with dismay by some thalassaemics who realised that chemotherapy sessions would continue to take place in their treatment facility for one more week.
While condemning the assaults, Pancyprian Thalassaemia Association head Natalia Michaelidou noted that “thalassaemics are also patients, who have found themselves under fear and distress for their own health and are suspicious of the risks of chemotherapy – they read internet studies but are not fully informed.”
“The health minister”, she added, “is a steadfast ally of thalassaemics. We are confident that any minor differences that may arise can be bridged.”