STATE doctors on Friday announced a three-hour work stoppage for Wednesday, after Health Minister Giorgos Pamborides threw their union (Pasyki) out of a meeting that discussed the possibility of collaboration between the Makarios children’s hospital and the University of Cyprus medical school.
In a statement, Pasyki said its board decided to stage a strike from noon to 3pm on Wednesday as a “response to the humiliating act by the Health minister towards the competent union of state doctors”.
Earlier, Pamborides had justified his decision to ask the union to leave the meeting by saying it had not even been invited, as the agenda did not concern them.
Pasyki chief Soteris Koumas said the minister’s excuse was that the meeting was departmental. But a document tabled at the meeting, he said, included proposals that violated labour rights and the professional dignity of doctors working in state hospitals.
“Our union’s further reaction will depend on the employer side’s attitude towards the multiple problems challenging public-sector health,” Pasyki said.
“During our strike, only emergency cases will be treated, so that lives are not endangered.”
In a statement of response, the health ministry “strongly disapproved” Pasyki’s move, and deemed the union’s move to demand a seat at a meeting it showed up for uninvited could only be described as “provocative and unfortunate”.
“It is now crystal clear that some do not even keep appearances, and openly lead to a comprehensive rift in the state health sector,” the ministry said.
“In the effort to preserve the outdated system where everyone considers public health their own kingdom, some are willing to sacrifice the public’s and the country’s health by undermining the co-operation of the University of Cyprus and state hospitals, without regard for the consequences of their actions.”
The ministry added that it will not allow the scuppering of reforms already underway, nor the blackmail attempted by a faction of state doctors, claiming that the public demands radical reform and the government will press ahead with relevant legislation.
Organised groups representing patients expressed outrage at Pasyki’s announcement of the strike.
In a statement, the confederation of patient groups said it was “greatly surprised” at the decision, at a time when public healthcare was “near-collapsed”.
“The patients, following this negative development, state clearly that they will no longer tolerate such behaviour, which place them at risk and inconvenience, and have no real benefit, other than intentionally trying to subvert the planned reforms in public healthcare,” the statement said.
The confederation called on President Nicos Anastasiades and political parties to proceed immediately with implementation of agreed reforms in healthcare, and demanded that Pasyki “immediately withdraws its announced work stoppage and engage in dialogue with the health minister here and now”.