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Blame game over shortage of gynaecologists at Paphos hospital (Updated)

Doctor

The medical staff shortage at the Paphos gynaecology department, which risks being closed down, highlighted the difference of views between the health ministry and state doctors on Friday as the former say they can’t find any doctors and the latter blame government policies for this.

The only doctor at the Paphos gynaecology department collapsed on Thursday from overwork, the head of state doctors’ union (PASYKI) Soteris Koumas said, and the health ministry had to revoke the sick leave of the second doctor from the clinic so he could return to his duties.

The collapsed doctor, it was reported he was pulling 24-hour shifts to cope with the workload, as the second gynaecologist was on sick leave. The problem goes back eight months even though the hospital’s management has sent many letters to the health ministry asking for extra physicians. Around 50 to 60 pregnant women are examined daily at the hospital.

The hospital’s gynaecology department had four gynaecologists, the Cyprus News Agency reported. One of them was removed several months ago in relation with the case of a prenatal death in August 2015, while the department’s director was also removed last October following a number of complaints against him.

The Paphos hospital management sent an urgent letter to the director of the state medical services who revoked the sick leave of one of the two remaining doctors to avoid closing down the clinic.

“Doctors are humans too, and they too can get sick at any moment. People need to understand that when a doctor is physically or psychologically worn out, he or she cannot practice medicine,” Koumas said.

“We can’t continue working under these conditions,” he said. He added that the only measure the health ministry took was to secure more than €8m to refer patients to the private sector.

“We ended up being waiting list producers. In Limassol there is only one ophthalmology surgeon. Among his duties is to prepare and submit a waiting list to the ministry. Instead of having the doctor operating, to reduce the lists, we give him extra duties,” Koumas said.

As regards the Paphos gynaecology department, the head of the state medical service Petros Matsas, acknowledged there is a grave problem, but said that they cannot find any physicians interested in taking up the empty posts.

“We are searching for gynaecologists,” he said, “but we cannot find anyone available to be placed in the public service. No one is interested”.

He added that the health ministry was trying to find doctors, even from Greece, but so far it was not possible to find someone.

He said that other state hospital clinics in Limassol and Nicosia face the same problem so it is not possible to transfer doctors from one clinic to another. Matsas expressed hope that by Monday, a solution would be found.

He added that they face difficulties in attracting doctors to the public sector as there is no incentive, due to the wages and working conditions.

Matsas said that he had been bringing the issue to the attention of Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis, and the ministry’s permanent secretary Christina Yiannaki since February.

The health ministry cannot find any doctors, Koumas said, because it implements wrong policies and it cannot attract any physicians, or reduce the numbers of those leaving.

“This issue is not new. […] it is not only about salaries, but it is also the doctors’ working conditions,” Koumas said.

He added that PASYKI is to decide in a few days on how to procced. He said that as part of the measures the union is suggesting to its members, is to adjust daily patient examinations and overtime according to the staff capacity of each department.


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