Cyprus Mail
Cyprus Health

Doctors urge government to focus on serious understaffing at hospitals (Updated)

Health Minister Giorgos Pamborides

Instead of using state budgets to refer patients to the private sector, the health ministry should deal with the serious understaffing problem at public hospitals, the head of the state doctors’ union (PASYKI) said on Wednesday.
Commenting on a series of tweets posted by Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis on Tuesday warning PASYKI that unless state hospitals became autonomous, the public health sector would die, union head Soteris Koumas said that before autonomy is implemented, state hospitals must be reorganised.
Dates for the implementation of hospital autonomy, which is a basic pre-requisite for the implementation of the National Health Scheme (NHS), have been constantly delayed following disagreements over provisions.
The goal is for state hospitals to achieve legal, administrative and financial independence but the ministry and unions of health professionals disagree over labour issues in reaching that goal.
“We were the first to propose administrative and financial autonomy of state hospitals, but with supervision from the health ministry,” Koumas told the Cyprus Mail.
He also said that despite Pamboridis’ statements when he became minister that he would support state hospitals, as they were the backbone of the health system, he said that they are still waiting.
”We believe that corrective moves need to be made. State hospitals are understaffed,” he said.
The Limassol state hospital’s ophthalmology department and Paphos’ state hospital gynaecology department only operate with one doctor each, Koumas said. He added that in both cases, from the initial four doctors staffing each of the two departments, only two remained and one of them is sick, thus these departments now operate with one doctor each.
“On the one hand they tell us there is no budget to hire doctors, on the other hand there is no interest on behalf of doctors to work in the state sector,” he said.
He added that no doctor after studying for 12 years chooses to work in the public sector because the pay is lower and working conditions inferior compared to the private sector.
State hospitals need to be boosted with immediate measures, Koumas said. He added that other hospital departments are losing medical staff as well.
Commenting on government statements that a study indicated there is a surplus of nurses and doctors, he said “Why are then patient waiting lists rapidly increasing?”.
PASYKI announced that they would announce later in the month whether they would proceed with measures.
Pamporidis later in the day said he was “surprised to watch PASYKI attempting to conduct a dialogue on the problems of public hospitals through the press”.
“PASYKI has not asked to meet me to ask me these questions,” Pamboridis said. He added that he has made appeals to the leadership of PASYKI many times and that he explained to them that “none of the long standing problems of public hospitals can be resolved within the inadequate and inflexible framework of the public sector”.
He also said he invited them to engage in sincere dialogue to establish an independent autonomous health organisation to be in charge of public hospitals and primary care of the state insured.
“Unfortunately, PASYKI rejected the establishment of this agency and insists that our hospitals remain under government control, ignoring that this is precisely the source of most problems experienced by patients but also the state health professionals themselves”.

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