By Constantinos Psillides
FORMER Health Minister Petros Petrides was questioned on Thursday by police investigators, in connection with alleged abuse of authority.
According to a report by Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides, Petrides had approved the payment for two surgeries performed in the private sector on two patients, both women.
The reimbursement applications had been rejected by the medical council on the grounds that the operations could have been performed by public hospitals, but the minister subsequently stepped in to overrule the council’s decision.
While Petrides had publicly admitted to approving the reimbursement, he maintains that it was within his right as Health minister.
Both surgeries cost €31,100, of which €29,000 was paid by the state.
A police source told the Cyprus Mail that investigators will soon wrap up the investigation and send their findings to the Attorney General. The same source said that the Minister apparently did nothing illegal.
“He had the power to authorise the reimbursement, despite the fact that both were patients of his. It’s up to the office of the Attorney General to decide whether there was conflict of interest and if a case can be made in court against Petrides.”
When the case was first revealed in August, Petrides told the press that he approved the reimbursement on humanitarian grounds, arguing that both women needed surgery and that they couldn’t afford it.
The daily Phileleftheros ran a story in August saying that a large chunk of the money – €20,000 of the €29,000 reimbursed – was used to cover the surgery to amputate the leg of a woman who already had the other leg amputated.
Petrides claimed that the woman couldn’t work due to her condition and that her husband quit his work to care for her. He said that they paid for the operation and then turned to the state for help, as they were legally obliged to do.