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Our View: Higher wages for doctors no guarantee of better care

THE GOVERNMENT can always be trusted to put a positive spin on every decision it takes. After the pay demands of the government doctors were satisfied, with the signing of a framework agreement at the presidential palace, health minister Giorgos Pamboridis said we had entered a period of understanding, which would be beneficial to patients.

It would be very interesting to know how increasing the pay of doctors at all levels would be beneficial to patients. It would certainly be beneficial to doctors, just as the February agreement was beneficial to nurses. So far, the government’s drive to introduce the national health scheme, Gesy, has been beneficial to doctors and nurses and there is nothing to suggest that increasing the pay of these groups would in any way be beneficial to patients.

If anything, it will be imposing higher operating costs on a fledgling scheme, the economic viability of which, has been questioned by many, including the government’s finance minister Harris Georgiades, who said, a few months ago, that if the contributions of workers and employers were not enough to cover the costs, taxes would have to be raised. In view of this possibility – the government does not have a clue what the cost of the scheme comes to – it appears rather irresponsible of the government to give pay rises to all hospital employees, while disingenuously claiming this would be beneficial to patients.

Pamboridis seemed to believe that the higher pay would help achieve the target of “upgrading the service offered to the Cypriot citizen and Cypriot patient at public hospitals.” Civil servants in the state sector receive very high pay but they still offer a lousy service to the Cypriot citizen so why would public hospitals be any different? He also said that the government’s objective was to make distinguished doctors returning to Cyprus want to work at public hospitals.

This was another dubious argument, because increasing the entry-level salary of GPs and guaranteeing them generous annual pay increments is not what would attract top specialists to public hospitals. Did the government, as part of its agreement with the unions, secure the right to hire consultants or medicine professors at significantly higher pay than the union rates, or would the unions block such moves, as they had done in the past? Hospital doctors blocked the employment of professors of the University of Cyprus medical school at Nicosia General Hospital because they would be paid higher salaries. Will the unions allow hospitals to employ consultants, under the agreement signed on Friday, or maintain their objections, which would not be very beneficial to patients?

Meanwhile the increase of the labour costs of Gesy, before it has been introduced, will continue after the holidays, when Pamboridis, as he said, “will handle the issue of the rest of the health professionals which is pending.”

 

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