By Evie Andreou
Government doctors are asking the health ministry to come up with an extra €2 million to cover their over time pay.
The 2014 budget to cover overtime pay for state doctors has been reduced to €6.5m from €7.8m in 2013. The doctors’ union PASYKI is asking for €8m and had presented proposals earlier in the year asking for funds to be allocated from other health service sectors to cover their overtime.
In January former Health Minister Petros 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.
PASYKI head Maro Kontou on Monday denounced the ministry’s attempt to save money by slashing doctors’ over time budget while at the same time hiring services from the private sector which costs more than the €2m required.
“With this practice they strangle the government sector. When doctors leave, they are not being replaced,” said Kontou who added that the low salaries are the reason there is difficulty in finding doctors for empty positions, giving as an example the need of a gynaecologist in the Paralimni Hospital.
“With the peanuts they give in salaries, no doctor wants to take the job,” she said.
The dispute between PASYKI and health ministry concerning government doctors’ overtime pay started last year when the government agreed with the troika to overhaul the health sector’s overtime wages and eventually pay healthcare employees a normal rate for working between 7am and 7pm.
In November, the ministry had proposed a standard payment for overtime, better patient management so as state surgeons can operate on more patients and limiting the 15 categories of specialties that are paid overtime to two so that no one can abuse the system.
PASYKI had given the health ministry a 15-day ultimatum to reconsider plans to reduce their overtime pay.
Each year former auditor-general Chrystalla Georghadji had repeated in her report that the overtime system in hospitals is broken and regularly abused by doctors and that some doctors have been paid the value of their whole annual wage in overtime over the course of a year.
The health ministry announced last year that starting from 2014 it would overhaul the system of regular, shift and overtime pay and start monitoring overtime hours.
Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides has also asked for the re-opening of two cases reported by Georghadji in 2012 and an allegation that state doctors abused overtime pay.
Health Minister Philippos Patsalis announced last week that he would investigate all incidences of mismanagement from the past or present and that every probe ordered by his ministry will be presented to the House Watchdog Committee to ensure transparency.
Patsalis consulted the Attorney General whether the case of abuse of overtime pay, the investigation of which was stopped by former health minister Stavros Malas and the cabinet at the time, can be re-opened.
PASYKI will meet with the health minister next Monday (June 23), to discuss the issue of the overtime budget.
By Evie Andreou