Hospital nurses belonging to the PASYNO union began an indefinite strike on Tuesday “because of denial and disdain shown by the official side” in satisfying their demands for pay increases.
The nurses are seeking to equate their qualifications with a university degree and they want higher entry-level wages. The government said this would cost €40m a year and was not viable financially.
Emergency departments are working on skeleton staff, while scheduled surgeries were cancelled. In Nicosia, no problems were recorded as the capital’s two hospitals have fewer PASYNO nurses than other districts.
Authorities said no patient’s life would be put at risk due to the strike. The health ministry’s permanent secretary Christina Yiannaki urged members of the public not to visit A&E departments for non-urgent cases.
A government statement said 15 operations were due to have been carried out during the day, while all kidney and cancer patients will be served. She added that all blood analyses would also be carried out.
There are also provisions, Yiannaki said, for A&E rooms and specialty departments to be adequately staffed.
The health ministry last week said it was going to involve the private sector in a bid to remedy the situation expected to arise due to the strike. By the afternoon one person had been sent to the private sector.
Yiannaki said that 35 private hospitals island wide stated they are ready to assist if necessary.
The biggest problems are expected to be presented in Limassol, Yiannakis said.
“We are determined to fight till the end. What the outcome will be, it remains to be seen,” PASYNO’s deputy head Theofano Papastefanou told the Cyprus Mail.
PASYNO’s other demands include a solution to understaffing of state hospitals, the unfreezing of promotion posts, the discontinuation of “the illegal” 10 per cent reduction from the contracts of temporary staff employed for more than 24 months, guarantees regarding employment terms of all those nurses holders of open ended contracts as per the hospital autonomy bill.
She added that they want to see solutions or substantial actions taken on behalf of “the official side” towards satisfying their main demands.
She added that it is very important for them to have their qualifications equated with a university degree, before hospital autonomy is implemented.
She added that this was agreed on by all nursing branch organisations last year when they were presented the previous hospital autonomy bill and they wanted this issue resolved before hospital autonomy was implemented.
“The health sector is changing and we want some re-assurances as regards our profession. We cannot allow this mockery,” she said.
PASYNO’s colleagues from the public service union PASYDY have distanced themselves from the strike action.
Health minister George Pamporidis, who visited the two state hospitals in Nicosia on Tuesday, said there is a very good cooperation and expressed the wish for all urgent cases to be dealt with immediately “to avoid jeopardising any life or the health of our fellow citizens”.
“The right to strike is fully respected, but our responsibility and obligation is to ensure that, with the cooperation of nurses, no life will be endangered because of the exercise of the right to strike,” Pamporidis said.
He said that he has invited PASYNO to a dialogue in an open letter, which “it is openly and publicly addressed and is an invitation to all those nurses but of their leadership too to engage in dialogue”. Pamporidis said that PASYNO has not requested any meeting with him.
He added that the government will not allow any individual requests to put off track all the effort made towards reform in the health sector. “All groups have requests. Our stake is the reform. And the reform should proceed.”
PASYNO’s spokesman Theodoros Petelis said Pamporidis’ open letter shows a “lack of seriousness” as no specific proposals were made.