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Nicosia ICU head says allegations of kickbacks a ‘huge lie’ (Updated)

Nicosia general

Accusations that a mannequin was used at Nicosia general hospital to inflate patient numbers as a pretext to refer people to the private sector in exchange for kickbacks are a “huge lie” head of the Intensive Care Unit said on Monday.

The department chief Theodoros Kyprianou was responding to a damning article by Simerini newspaper over the weekend that six doctors were being investigated, some by the auditor-general and others by the health ministry itself in connection to corrupt practices.

Patients at the hospital unit were referred to the private sector after the ICU was allegedly ‘full’ when one bed was occupied by a mannequin, the reports said.

It was spotted by a health ministry official last October during an inspection and the explanation was that it was being used for training.

Kyprianou called the allegation a huge lie which questioned the calibre of the article’s author.
“The ‘fake mannequin’ mentioned in the newspaper ‘discovered’ by a ‘surprised’ health ministry official is a special medical mannequin with a built in computer which is used in training seminars and simulations for doctors, nurses and students we train like every other modern ICU in Europe,” he said.

It was placed there after a written approval by the ministry, Kyprianou said – in Room 9 of the unit. The ICU had also repeatedly requested it was moved as it posed a risk to patients, he added.

Additionally, the mannequin was only used extensively in the last six months of 2014 when the number of referrals had been greatly reduced and during a period when the ICU was not fully occupied, he added.
Responding to the accusations that false information was given as to the occupancy of the unit in a bid to refer more patients to the private sector, Kyprianou denied it.

The paper’s Monday edition, which ran his statement, insisted they had documents from the auditor-general’s office of individual incidents where patients were referred from the ICU to the private sector despite available beds.

The report added that referrals had gone to zero in October 2014 once the responsibility fell to the ministry’s permanent secretary. Squandering of public money between 2011 and 2014 is now being investigated.
Kyprianou received a letter from the auditor general last year informing him that the referral costs were €3m in 2011, €1.7m in 2012, €1.5m in 2013 and €1m in 2014. By 2015, the cost had dropped to about €365,000.

The director’s statement, however, claimed the fall in costs was not because the responsibility had gone to the permanent secretary but because the ICU had been expanded with another six beds.
On the allegation that one ICU doctor was mainly using the services of one private hospital which was buying its supplies from a pharmacy owned by his wife, Kyprianou said the allegations were utterly ridiculous and unsubstantiated lies. He said the doctor would be proceeding with “legal measures against the newspaper for publishing a totally false and unsubstantiated article as it is defamatory, slanderous and contains libel.”

Meanwhile, police are urging the public to come forward with any information regarding the case as part of a wider scandal of corruption in the public health sector that has seen two state doctors, one of them the head of the ENT department and the Nicosia hospital’s general director, currently on remand in connection with taking backhanders from a private Nicosia clinic.

A third suspect, who works at Larnaca general hospital, has yet to be arrested. However police said he had contacted investigators who were expecting him to arrive in Cyprus on Tuesday.

The Cyprus Society of Otorhinolaryngology (ENT) issued a statement saying they were obliged to protect the reputations of their colleagues and it was unfair the individuals were targeted before any official conclusion was reached.

Nevertheless, they condemned the notion of bribing state doctors and said that if the allegations were proved true, then there would be disciplinary action against the suspects.

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