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President throws down gauntlet to striking nurses (Updated)

In a show of determination, President Nicos Anastasiades on Wednesday announced the outsourcing of nursing services in a bid to tackle the problems created by an ongoing strike staged by a single union whose members insist on a pay scale upgrade through degree recognition.
“I want to be clear that neither the state, nor society accept blackmail,” Anastasiades said after a cabinet meeting.
Anastasiades said the government planned to procure nursing services and outsource more cases to the private sector in an effort to mitigate the disruption caused by the 1,900 members of PASYNO, who have been on strike since March 15.
Nurses had a day to rethink their actions and respond to an open invitation to talk, the president said.
A ministerial committee comprising the ministers of health and finance, and the undersecretary to the president, will be monitoring the effects of the strike and act accordingly, he said.
To tackle possible problems, the committee will also have at its disposal the civil defence, the fire service and the National Guard.
The president said the fact that ambulance staff were refusing to transport patients to the private sector “cannot be tolerated”.
In such cases authorities will use ambulances belonging to the fire service, the army, or the civil defence, the president said.
The government’s reaction followed the rejection by the union on Tuesday of a health ministry proposal to break the impasse.
Although PASYNO reps did identify certain positive elements in the proposal, including the setting of a timeline and an open-agenda discussion, the sticking point continued to be the ministry’s insistence that degree recognition can only be examined as part of the procedure of making state hospitals financially and administratively autonomous, itself part of introducing a National Health System (NHS).
PASYNO has since decided to escalate its measures by withdrawing skeleton staff who were still working on hospital wards.
The gaps were covered by members of PASYDY and independents who chose not to strike. PASYDY, however, had warned that its members were spread thin and exhausted. It said it would not accept the blame for any negative developments resulting from PASYNO’s strike.
“Under the circumstances … the government is determined to proceed with measures that will secure unhindered patient access to quality health services,” the president said.
Anastasiades expressed his “deep sorrow” for the nurses’ failure to respond to the “important gestures of good will” undertaken by the government, which resolved the long-standing problems plaguing the health sector.
“I am saddened by the striking nurses’ response to the initiatives of the patients’ association and the government for a structured dialogue to achieve the autonomy of public hospitals and make implementation of the NHS possible,” he said. “The response was rejection of the proposals and escalation of strike measures by withdrawing skeleton staff, as always unfortunately, to the detriment of the patients.”
Anastasiades said he was saddened the most by the nurses’ insistence on a demand that entailed a big pay upgrade of a particular group of public servants.
“It is a demand that was also raised in the past and was not accepted, re-tabled now on the eve of the (May’s parliamentary) elections.”
Earlier on Wednesday, PASYNO urged unemployed nurses not to succumb to temptation and engage in strikebreaking actions.
It also threatened to remove all its members without warning if the state sacked people because of their union activity.

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