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Pamboridis says he will not allow interference in med school deal

Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis

HEALTH Minister Giorgos Pamboridis said on Thursday that that it was the government’s obligation to ensure cooperation between the state university and public hospitals and that he would not allow anyone to stop that.

Speaking at the House health committee, Pamboridis said that the dialogue on the cooperation agreement between his ministry and the University of Cyprus’ medical school to train medical students in state hospitals will continue on Monday.

The agreement was put on hold on Monday after doctors at Makarios hospital went on a three-hour work stoppage to protest. The work stoppage was initiated after the dean of the medical school Dr Zacharias Zachariou who went there to assume duties, refused to leave when he was asked to by medical staff.

State doctors said they find the cooperation agreement between the ministry and the medical school to be irregular as it was approved by the cabinet and not by parliament.

Following the work stoppage, the ministry and the medical school agreed in a meeting with both state doctors’ union Pasyki and the doctors’ branch of civil servants’ union Pasydy, to freeze their agreement until state doctors have time to submit their own proposals. The unions, whose main grievance are the terms regulating the presence of university doctors in state hospitals, are expected to submit their proposals on Friday.

Pasydy’s rep had raised an issue of state doctors being unfavourably treated due to this agreement and that there was also a huge difference in salaries as university doctors’ annual income will be more than three times that of state doctors.

During the committee meeting, MPs heard from experts that Cyprus was the only EU member state that does not have a university hospital, and that there are several models that could be adopted.

Pamboridis said that the issue of coupling the state university with state hospitals was a matter of concern to the government since the foundation of the medical school. “Unfortunately the state did not act promptly to introduce those laws that would enable the cooperation of these two institutions”.

Therefore, he said, and due to the fact that students now reached their fourth year of study, which requires clinical training, the government had to act quickly in order to allow the introduction of medical students and their professors in state hospitals.

He added that the problem arose in a clinic from around 25 that will accommodate students, where a medical school doctor will co-exist with a hospital clinical director.

Union reps had said that according to the agreement each hospital department will have two heads – the existing manager and a university doctor – while the latter will also have under his or her supervision a number of medical staff of the department.

“That seems to be a point of friction since it carries the risk of diarchy as some maintain, and I think that it is where we should focus,” he said.

Pamboridis said that by alleviating this issue, “we look at the larger picture which is the prosperity and good conditions of exposure to clinical projects for students of the university”.

“It is our obligation to work for this generation, it is not our duty to work for the maintenance of some well-established attitudes, which prevent development and upgrading, and toward this direction we will move,” the minister said.

He expressed hope that on Monday a consensus would be reached as regards the cooperation agreement, as this would also benefit state doctors through their exposure to the research work of the university doctors and from a number of university funds.

Pamboridis said that a bill is also underway regulating this cooperation agreement and that Pasyki aims to contribute to its content. The aim is for the bill to be tabled to parliament next September.

Meanwhile, members of the University of Cyprus’ senate denied media claims on Thursday that the resignation of its medical school’s dean, Zachariou, was over his discontent that the educational institution did not back him on Monday when he was under fire from state doctors when he went to assume duties at Makarios hospital.

According to senate members, Zachariou had submitted his resignation, which has been accepted, a lot earlier than Monday’s incident.

“He submitted his resignation on October 5. The senate is to appoint a new temporary medical school dean on November 2,” a senate member told the Cyprus Mail, while refraining from making more comments.

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