HEALTH Minister Giorgos Pamboridis said he was astonished to hear the head of the medical services claiming that public hospitals were falling apart because the government refused to hire new recruits to replace those who left.
In a written statement, the minister said a huge effort was underway to reform the health sector and wondered whether the timing of the statements, which represented personal views, “served other expediencies.”
“I am making it clear to everyone that public officials have no place raising political and other reasons, which strictly reflect their personal views,” the minister said.
On Thursday, Petros Matsas said medical staff were leaving state hospitals for the private sector, creating many problems.
He said there are recruitment restrictions, even in cases of pregnancy or long term sick leave, which prevented them from filling the gaps immediately.
Matsas said it was the policy of the health and finance ministries but there was nothing his service could do apart from apply pressure.
“We think it is indeed a problem, rightly raised by our colleagues, and it is a disadvantage for recruitment and acceptance of hiring conditions in the public sector,” he said.
Matsas said colleagues were leaving the state sector because conditions in private health facilities were better.
“One surgical procedure there can cover the monthly salary, that is why they are leaving,” he said. “We can’t force them to stay.”
But according to Pamboridis, public hospital staff had been exempted from measures to cut personnel numbers and the budget allows for immediate replacement of medics and paramedics so as to ensure the smooth running of the facilities.
The minister published staff figures for the past four years to back his argument.
According to the figures, in 2015, there were 792 doctors and 3,382 nurses, compared with 785 and 3,321 in 2014.
In 2013, there were 792 doctors and 3,288 nurses, Pamboridis said, compared with 787 and 3,393 in 2012, when the Republic was under the Demetris Christofias administration.
And in 2015 restrictions were lifted to fill senior positions so that clinics and other services functioned properly, he added.
“The government has allocated substantial resources to relieve congestion and cut waiting lists despite the huge fiscal problems it has inherited,” Pamboridis said.
He said he expected all those in the health sector, especially public officials who are responsible for the smooth operation of sensitive services, to “display the necessary seriousness and responsibility to tackle the chronic problems created by mismanagement, lack of oversight, and wrong programming, and refrain from making statements to create an impression.”
Apart from misleading, such utterances undermine the health sector and ongoing plans for its reform, he said.
The state doctors’ union expressed disappointment and concern.
PASYKI said it would not get into what was said by the two sides, stressing however, that it “confirmed our concerns over what led state hospitals to the current condition. Lack of staff, increased workload, lack of materials, low income, low morale, uncertainty, and lack of prospects and vision … are an obstacle to the provision of quality care to patients.”
The union urged officials to put their differences aside and try to resolve the problems plaguing hospitals.