By Constantinos Psillides
CONTRACT workers at public hospitals walked off work on Friday morning, protesting the lack of staff at the hospitals, the increased workload caused by the financial crisis, as well as the uncertainty concerning their future employment.
Holding placards that said “Don’t you care about patients’ care?” and “Aren’t you concerned about the health of the staff” the employees gathered outside hospitals to protest.
Health Minister Filippos Patsalis met with the protesters outside Nicosia General Hospital at 1pm assuring them that no one will lose their job or their rights and promised to look into their grievances.
Regarding the lack of staff, Patsalis explained that he was allowed to replace only one out of five people retiring. A total of 155 people retired from the public health sector and out of the 31 future replacements 13 were already at their posts.
“Problems are solved through dialogue. I know that hourly employees are faced with a lot of problems, but I cannot promise any miracles. We will try and come up with solutions within our current restrictions, dictated by the financial crisis. Either with transferring staff or hiring employees where needed,” he said.
Patsalis added that implementing a national health scheme (NHS) will solve a lot of problems, adding that there are some issues that must be resolved through dialogue and compromise.
“Like I said, miracles don’t happen. We are in the midst of a financial crisis and there is a moratorium in hiring people in the public sector. We should take advantage of every opportunity presented to us and each of us, at his own post, should strive for maximum productivity so we can get through this difficult situation.”
Patsalis stressed that the public health sector is ailing and that sweeping changes are necessary in order to provide people with quality healthcare.
He said the public that a public debate regarding two key bills on the NHS implementation process and autonomy of public hospitals will take place at the Journalists’ Home in Nicosia on Saturday at 11am.
The government appears well on its way of implementing the long awaited NHS, after settling disputes with the powerful public doctors’ union PASYKI.
The Health Minister has pledged to fully implement the NHS by July 2016, well within the time-frame set by the Troika of international lenders.