Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Die waiting to be examined – the sequel

A nurse at Nicosia general hospital (CM archives)

I wrote two months ago: “Government must stop being stretched over barrels by bus companies, doctors and nurses, SGOs that refute privatisation, teachers, taxi drivers, et al.

Interestingly, government was recently stretched and lost against port workers, EAC and CYTA, SGOs awaiting privatisation according to the 2013 troika MOU.

This present confrontation between government and PASYNO (the nurses’ union) has come to a head, each side blackmailing the other – the nurses with all-out strike action endangering public health, and in response, the government switching essential healthcare to the private sector.

I also wrote two months ago: “The public sector claim they are dealing with 80 percent of all healthcare patients with fewer doctors and nurses than two years ago, many said to have emigrated or switched to the private sector to earn in a day what they had previously earned in a month.

Interestingly, the private sector is now rubbing its hands; money, money, money, very funny – it’s a rich man’s world!

Why did government back down over the ports, EAC and CYTA and not PASYNO?

Simple! Ports, EAC and CYTA are essential services where drawn out strike action cannot be permitted. But public healthcare is not essential, since we have alternatives – the private sector, at huge public cost to taxpayers.

It seems that the government wants to be seen to win this time no matter the expense, employing the private healthcare sector as strike breakers, scabs and blacklegs.

This particular confrontation is turning nasty.

Margaret Thatcher confronted all trade unions in the 1980s and won at an enormous cost to the unions. President Anastasiades is confronting one union only, and will lose.

The private sector does not possess adequate facilities to satisfy demand – not enough dialysis machines, no oncology departments, no aftercare facilities, Alzheimer or dementia care, etc.

The private sector, in the main, can be compared to a boutique supply for what is a truly serious public healthcare demand.

The private sector manipulates according to income – everything according to whether you can pay – even unnecessary ops. But they cannot handle an overload of cases without absolute chaos ensuing. And do tell us at what price to taxpayers, Mr President, both healthwise and to the treasury?

Don’t kid yourself, Mr President – our public healthcare services perform adequately given patient numbers. Don’t pretend that the private sector can satisfy demand – quite the opposite.

But government does not want to be seen losing this one lest their very existence becomes pointless.

But this one is not like the others. This one is about insignificant healthcare workers seeking significance – the significance given to port workers, EAC and CYTA employees.

The Cyprus economy will not falter if nurses go on strike – the sick might, but the sick don’t matter.

Nurses are not powerful. They carry no clout. Their services are not essential to the Republic’s GDP. They are the housemaids of the sick, the nappy changers and catheter drainers, bed makers and food fetchers. Nurses are slaves to our health and if we are healthy we don’t even remark their existence, but we would if the lights went out, mobiles went blank and food rotted at the docks.

This, and former governments, have failed miserably to introduce a proper public healthcare service – another troika MOU demand bungled. Cyprus is the only EU member without a satisfactory public healthcare service. We can turn up new registrations of flash motors by 38 percent on this time last year, yet stealing a march on the private healthcare sector and insurance companies to the benefit of public healthcare is wilfully denied.

Nurses are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to influencing or lobbying political parties. Nurses are viewed as accessories to doctors, who cannot operate without them.

Nurses are treated and paid as badly in the private sector, where they have fewer benefits and work longer hours than their counterparts in the public sector.

Doctors are kings. Nurses are pawns. Nurses care, doctors prepare. Nurses are the front line and are being used to fight the battles of public healthcare doctors.

Nurses cannot fiddle their taxes. Most private healthcare doctors do.

Its time good governance in all public and private services was introduced, never mind a proper public healthcare service (GESY), which I have been told by a healthcare consultant, will never happen!

You cannot sail a ship full of holes far…

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