By Andria Kades
Claire Economides, a doctor’s widow, was incensed when she read last week’s article in the Sunday Mail about the private doctor who refused to release the results of a patient’s cancer biopsy until she had paid every cent of her bill.
The picture it painted of an unfeeling, money-grabbing private health sector was as far removed from the way her late husband treated his patients as it is possible to get.
George Economides was an ear, nose and throat doctor who practised in Nicosia until his death in 1991 aged 69.
“My husband used to come home with bottles of oil, potatoes, so many things people would bring him if they didn’t have money to pay him,” says Economides. “Poor people you know, giving him bags of things and he didn’t mind. He helped so many people that still remember him.”
One such former patient is Nicos Hatjitoffis who runs Safeway Travel in Nicosia.
Now in his late 50s, he remembers when as a 10-year-old boy in the late 1960s his family used to pay Dr Economides with whatever products they had at home. Sometimes the bill was settled with halloumi, sometimes potatoes, sometimes oranges.
“I remember going with my mum and we used to take potatoes or bread or anything else we could find,” said Hatjitoffis who suffered from asthma which would affect his tonsils.
“Every week my mum used to run around to find halloumi we could use to pay him.”
As a sickly child who had to regularly visit Economides, he recalls times when he would go on his own and struggled to carry the goods.
“I was very frail and he got so upset when he saw me carrying all that, he told my mum never to repeat it again.”
Indeed to this day, not only does Hatjitoffi remember the doctor and the visits, he distinctly remembers the feelings that surrounded them.
“I used to get so excited every time I would go to the doctor because he would give me caramels,” he says with a laugh.
“I was just a kid but I remember it so clearly.”
It was his fond memories of the doctor that brought the doctor’s widow and the former patient in contact when she visited Hatjitoffis’ travel agency to buy a ticket. “I gave him my name and he said ‘Oh you’re George Economides wife! He treated me as a child’,” said Economides.
Like Dr Economides’ widow, Hatjitoffis was shocked by the story of the doctor who wouldn’t release his patient’s test result until her bill was settled.
“For God’s sake!” he sighed. “Unfortunately, everything revolves around money these days.”
Although delighted that her husband is so fondly remembered, Economides feels saddened that his attitude towards patients is increasingly rare.
“Where are the doctors’ hearts?” she asked.