As of Monday a third doctor will assume duties at the Paphos hospital’s gynaecology department, which was left without a medic earlier in the week when it’s only two doctors were both on sick leave, the health ministry’s permanent secretary Christina Yiannaki said on Thursday.
Yiannaki, along with the head of the state medical services Petros Matsas, visited the Paphos hospital on Thursday to discuss the problems, especially the serious understaffing of the gynaecology department.
As regards patient waiting lists at the hospital, Yiannaki said that the one for cataract surgeries, bilateral hernias, inguinal hernias and the umbilical hernia, had been cleared, and referrals to the private sector would now begin for knee replacements.
Earlier in the week, pregnant women were dismayed to discover after hours of waiting, that there were no doctors to examine them as both gynaecologists were on sick leave. The two doctors have been the only staff at the unit for months after two others who were suspended due to disciplinary offences, did not have their contracts renewed.
One of the two was already on sick leave and the only other gynaecologist failed to show up for work on Tuesday and later, and later filed a sick note.
The hospital had made arrangements for the referral of urgent cases to the private sector and the Limassol hospital. On Wednesday one of the two doctors on sick leave was called to return to his duties.
Yiannaki said that as of Monday, another gynaecologist is to assume duties at the hospital, thus the unit will have two doctors, plus the one still on sick leave.
“It is an effort to resolve the problem, and we are putting in a gigantic effort”, Yiannaki said, but the cooperation of the Paphos hospital’s doctors is essential.
As regards the gynaecologist, who did not show up earlier in the week and informed the hospital he was on sick leave for a month, he is to appear before a medical council, Yiannaki said.
The head of state doctors’ union (PASYKI) Soteris Koumas said that the doctor in question, had been for the past three to four weeks the only gynaecologist on duty.
“Is this logical? What about the patients? How can a doctor service everyone? What if something happened to him, and it did,” Koumas said.
He said he was not satisfied by the newly announced arrangements, saying this was “another quick-fix solution”.
“Again, two gynaecologists will man the department. This means they will be on call every other day, on top of their routine examinations, and surgeries,” Koumas said.
He added that the health ministry knew of the problems for a year now, when only two doctors were left at the department.
“The same problem occurred a month ago,” he said. He added that despite President Nicos Anastasiades’ reassurances at the time that the issue would be dealt with, nothing had changed.
The Paphos gynaecology department, faced the risk of being closed down last month when the only doctor at the time had collapsed from overwork, and the health ministry had to revoke the sick leave of the second doctor.
The doctor who had collapsed was reportedly pulling 24-hour shifts to cope with the workload, when the second gynaecologist was on sick leave. Last month, the president announced that he would personally look into the issue of state hospital understaffing after the situation at Paphos hospital came to light.
In mid-June the government announced that it was looking to hire 28 doctors with specific specialties, to staff certain departments in all hospitals. State officials admitted that both the salary but also the work conditions in state hospitals were off-putting to doctors, who prefer to work in the private sector.