Cyprus Mail

Hospital autonomy bill ‘in union hands’

UNDERSECRETARY to the President Constantinos Petrides said on Friday that health professionals have been given the hospital autonomy bill which the government would like to table to parliament before it is dissolved ahead of the May elections.

The much awaited bill comes after a six-month delay as the government had stopped last summer its tabling to parliament at the eleventh hour, to give more time for dialogue with stakeholders until September.

Hospital autonomy is the first step towards the implementation of the National Health Scheme (NHS). It aims to make state hospitals administratively and financially independent and able to compete with private hospitals.

Speaking to state broadcaster CyBC, Petrides said the bill satisfies those demands of the health professionals that “we deem as fair demands”.

“The intention of the government is to proceed promptly and table the legal amendments that safeguard what we have agreed to, before the current legislative body,” Petrides said.

He added that as regards pay increases, as per the demands of nurses’ union PASYNO that would like to move up their current pay scale after having their qualification made equal to a university degree, “if such a thing took place now, it would sink any attempt for hospital autonomy”.

He also called claims of health professionals on the increasing workload in state hospitals, as “unfounded”, because in 2015, he said, 50,000 fewer patient visits were recorded in state hospitals than 2012.

President Nicos Anastasiades too, said in a televised interview on CybC on Thursday that according to the hospital autonomy study that all political parties adhere to, there is a surplus of 400 nurses, and a surplus in doctors, too.

“Should I proceed with firing people?” he asked. He said that instead, a road map should be drawn toward the gradual implementation of hospital autonomy as provided by relevant studies, “not with layoffs, but with the way it should be made so that (state hospitals) become truly independent and competitive units”.

He added that he is overseeing the process towards hospital autonomy personally, and he reiterated that obstacles to introduce the NHS do not lie with interest groups opposing it, but rather the cost of funding it.

He hoped that the relevant administration software will be ready by June 2017, and that he will arrange a meeting with the heads of all the political parties “to address effectively this great issue”.

Unsure if the project will be implemented during his term, Anastasiades said that what is important is to follow the roadmap and materialise “those which will be announced”, and solve the problems the health sector faces.

Union representatives told the Cyprus Mail they were asked to submit their suggestions as regards the bill next week, but they expressed reservations as to whether such an important issue is to be discussed by MPs and voted by the plenum in such a short notice, days before the parliament is dissolved.

The bill comes a few weeks after the government agreed with civil servants’ union PASYDY to satisfy a number of demands put forth by nurses, in exchange for the union to engage in a constructive dialogue on hospital autonomy.

The deal was badly received by nurses union PASYNO though, whose members constitute around half the state hospitals’ nursing staff. They said they were not invited to participate in the dialogue and their demands were not considered. PASYNO already staged a two-day 12-hour strike last month, while it announced it would go on an indefinite strike as of March 15.

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