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UCy rector says state doctors’ attitudes to teaching hospital ‘anachronistic’

Constantinos Christofides

University of Cyprus (UCy) Rector Constantinos Christofides said in an op-ed on Sunday that doctors’ union arguments against the notion that a university teaching hospital would created different levels of medics were anachronistic.

In the article published in Phileleftheros, Christofides said different levels were needed where needs were multiple and diverse, adding that it was not rational to try and make everyone wear the same size shoes.

“When needs are characterised by a multiplicity… patient care, student education, research and dissemination of new knowledge… the rational choice to promote the general interest is the creation of plurality within the system,” he said.

The agreement between the university and the government was put on hold for a week last Monday after state 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. They also complained that his wage was close to four times bigger than theirs.

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.

The dialogue is due to resume on Monday after state doctors asked for time to formulate their positions and proposals to regulate the presence of university doctors in state hospitals.

Civil servants union 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.

In his op-ed, Christofides said the university hospital was the most basic component of a medical school and without it there would be medical training. “How else can a student be trained if they are not initiated in hospital, in treating patients? What citizen would trust a doctor who never saw the patients? It is no coincidence that all medical schools in the developed world use this method.” he said.

Doctors working in university hospitals were just treating patients and training interns but were also conducting research and publishing their results in academic journals. “Therefore, a university hospital is an institution in which academic work and clinical practice are related directly to the benefit of patients and, of course, tomorrow’s doctors,” he added. University hospitals also attract the best doctors in their region and are an enormous advantage to a country, he said.

“We should not accept to remain the only country in Europe without state university hospital. Some blame the University of Cyprus which they say wants to impose and to usurp state hospitals. This categorically not true,” Christofides said.

“We know very well that the state hospitals are not owned by us. What we want is cooperation with the government hospitals for the mutual benefit of all stakeholders -the patients, students and scientific research,” he added. “Having spoken with many state doctors, I am sure that they understand the added value it would bring.”

Christofides said the future belonged to adaptive, innovative and bold, visionaries and Cyprus needed a concerted national effort to attract the best, and a university hospital that would open new horizons and new perspectives for the health sector.

Old-fashioned ideas such as some of those put forward by the unions do not serve the collective interest, but only the individual, the rector said.

“The argument of the unions that we are going to create different levels of doctors is anachronistic and does not meet modern requirements. Different levels are necessary where needs are multiple and diverse. What could be more rational than to not want to fit the same shoe on different people.”

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