Cyprus Mail

Nurses threaten indefinite strike after heated exchange with minister

Members of nurses union PASYNO that went on a 12-hour work stoppage on Monday have said they do not rule out the possibility of going on an indefinite strike.
Health Minister George Pamporidis used Twitter to condemn PASYNO’s strike measures, which he described as ‘badly timed and extortionate’.
The union’s members, some 1300 and amounting to around half of the state hospitals’ nurses, began the first of two 12-hour strikes on Monday at 7.30am.
They were protesting against hospital understaffing, lack of information over government’s plans to make hospitals autonomous and the government’s delay in starting discussions with the union over upgrading nursing school qualifications. In addition, the nurses are asking for the unfreezing of promotions, the introduction of a hazardous occupation allowance and the opening of 200 more nursing jobs. The second strike will take place on Tuesday.
Due to the strike, all scheduled surgeries at the Paphos, Limassol and Paralimni state hospitals were cancelled, since the majority of their nursing staff are PASYNO members, while a number of surgeries were also cancelled at the Nicosia and Larnaca state hospitals.
The head of PASYNO Panayiotis Georgiou said that some of their demands have been pending for years and that the hospitals and nurses are “kneeling under the burden”.
“We cannot rely anymore on altruism or the good will of colleagues. Let’s look at the real problems and let those in charge provide the solutions,” he said.
He added that unless solutions are found, they would escalate measures.
The union members, who included midwives and students, gathered in the morning outside parliament in Nicosia and delivered a memo containing their demands. From there they marched to the health ministry where they had a heated exchange with minister George Pamporidis, who went to meet them and receive their memo in person.
PASYNO nurses told Pamporidis that they were unhappy with the deal the government reached with the nursing branch of the state employees union PASYDY regarding the unfreezing of nursing staff posts, and the union’s agreement to discuss hospital autonomy. PASYNO said they were disappointed they were not invited to participate in the dialogue. The union said they would not commit to agreeing with any National Health Scheme and hospital autonomy proposals if they were not included in the dialogue.
Pamporidis asked them why they had not waited until February 26 when the finance ministry is to give a briefing on all relevant issues including hospital autonomy. His comments sparked an angry response from the protestors.
“The nursing profession is a sacred profession and it must finally be given the respect it deserves. Nurses face serious problems. They try to provide as best quality nursing care as possible, but their work is hampered daily. We seek the help of those in charge. Help us to help our patients,” said one nurse, Andri Efstathiou.
Afterwards, the nurses marched to the finance ministry where they delivered another memo.
PASYNO’s spokesman, Theodoros Petelis, told the Cyprus Mail the union’s board would decide later in the week whether they would proceed with further measures. He added that an indefinite strike was not off the table if the ministry failed to respond to their demands.
The union had announced earlier in the month it would join the strike announced by PASYDY’s nursing branch out of solidarity, but called it off after the latter decided not to go through with it following a meeting with Pamporidis.
Due to the strike, ‘security teams’ have been designated to attend urgent cases, while all ICUs and dialysis units operated normally. The health ministry said it had put a contingency plan in place.
Meanwhile, Europa Donna Cyprus expressed their concerns as regards cancellations of scheduled surgeries for biopsies but also of women diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Cancer surgeries must take place within specified time limits and delays can affect the progression of the disease, but also of the scheduled treatments,” an announcement said.
The organisation is asking for the cancelled surgeries to be scheduled for a new date or for the patients to be referred to the private sector “if there is no possibility of them being dealt with soon at state hospitals”.
It also urges all women whose surgeries were cancelled due to the PASYNO nurses strike, to contact their offices in all towns.

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