By Angelos Anastasiou
AS THEIR claims for overtime pay continue to go unchecked, doctors at public hospitals may be leaving work early, Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides noted in his 2013 annual report.
The report included references to on-site checks by audit service officials at the Nicosia General’s underground car-park – mostly used by medical personnel – who recorded “fewer parked vehicles between 2.15pm to 2.40pm than between 10am to 11 am.”
“This fact could suggest the staff’s departure from work before their workday’s end,” noted Michaelides.
“It is also noted that our service has often received complaints by citizens, relating to medical practitioners not complying with their work schedule.”
Noting that this issue has remained outstanding for a long time, the Auditor General’s report proposed the adoption of immediate and appropriate remedies.
“For example, installing a punch-card system to electronically record the staff’s arrival and departure time,” he said.
He added that non-compliance with working-hour schedules also hinders the monitoring and control of medical staff’s overtime hours.
With regard to this issue, Michaelides noted that total overtime pay for 2013 for doctors and nurses came up to a little over €22 million, down from over €26 million in 2012 – a 15.8 per cent drop.
However, the control system for overtime pay “exhibits serious weaknesses, resulting in an inability to evidence all claims, which in turn allows for exploitation,” the Auditor General said.
“The system does not require the substantiation of overtime needs,” he said.
Although the health ministry has variously received complaints for the possible exploitation of the system’s weaknesses by medical practitioners, subsequent investigation has failed to furnish any evidence of disciplinary offences.
As well, in many instances doctors have filed claims for as much as 11 hours of overtime pay for one day.
“In addition to the financial aspect of this issue, according to labour laws voted in compliance with the relevant European Directive, a minimum rest period of 11 consecutive hours per 24-hour period is required,” Michaelides said.