Labour issues in the public health sector should be resolved before hospital autonomy comes into play, state doctors’ and nurse’s unions, Pasyki and Pasyno said on Monday.
The two unions said in a joint announcement that they had met last week to discuss the problems the public health sector was facing and the “negative effects which are daily faced by healthcare professionals and patients”.
At the meeting both unions agreed that public hospitals, which are to be turned into administratively and financially autonomous organisations as a prerequisite of the National Health Scheme (NHS), should remain government organisations even after autonomy.
In addition, they said, public hospitals should be staffed directly within the framework of a comprehensive reform and restructuring, pre-autonomy. This would “ensure their viability once they were within an autonomy and NHS setting”.
“The motivation and empowerment of health professionals must begin promptly,” the announcement said.
The two unions again rejected the government’s contention that all employment issues would be resolved once state hospitals became autonomous organisations.
“The phrase ‘autonomy is the magic formula to solve all problems and labour disputes’ is a void one and is in itself a risk to the sustainability not only of public hospitals, … but of health in general,” the unions said.
Keeping the autonomous hospital organisations as state-run and resolving all labour issues before autonomy kicks in has been a standing request of unions, especially Pasyki.
Despite repeated government reassurances that no one would lose their job because of hospital autonomy, both doctors and nurses want to secure that under the new system they would keep their status as civil servants and the benefits that go with that.
After numerous date push-backs spanning years, Health Minister Giorgos Pamporidis announced earlier in the month that June 2020 was the final date set for the full implementation of the NHS.
The announcement came after a meeting at the presidential palace with President Nicos Anastasiades and the heads of the parliamentary political parties, where a consensus has been achieved as to the “character of the organisation that will oversee [hospital] autonomy”.
He added that the meeting was along the same lines as that of July 21, when all heads of the parliamentary parties agreed during another meeting with the president as to how to proceed with the NHS, which is a requirement of Cyprus’ bailout programme.
According to Pamboridis, by June 2017 a public organisation will be set up which will oversee hospital autonomy, while by June 2019 outpatient care will be introduced.
The ultimate date for the full implementation of the NHS is June 1, 2020, Pamboridis said.
At the moment, the government is trying to hire doctors of various specialties in state hospitals as they face serious understaffing problems. Government officials had admitted that they are having difficulty in finding doctors willing to work in state hospitals as both the salaries and the working conditions are off-putting.
Meanwhile state doctors are to stage a three-hour work stoppage on Wednesday from noon to 3pm after Pamboridis threw 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 the strike as a “response to the humiliating act by the health minister towards the competent union of state doctors”.
Pamboridis had justified his decision to ask the union to leave the meeting by saying they had not even been invited as the agenda did not concern them.