Pasyno nurses’ union announced on Monday that its members would go on a two-hour work stoppage on Wednesday to protest over yet another attack on nurses by patients this time at the Nicosia general hospital’s emergency department over the weekend.
The union said that their patience has run out as this was the 12th such incident this year in state hospitals without anyone being arrested, while the government has done nothing to prevent them.
The latest incident took place early Sunday, at around 1.30am, at the Nicosia general hospital’s A&E department, when a 33-year-old man escorting his father as a patient, reportedly attacked and hurt two female nurses, hurled items in the room and insults at everyone present. The man – who was reportedly drunk – was angry because he felt staff did not pay due attention to his father.
“Our patience has run out as regards violent acts against nurses,” Pasyno said.
The union said that it has decided to call on its members to go on a two-hour strike on Wednesday between noon and 2pm to protest over the inaction of the government in tackling this problem, which is due to the understaffing of state hospitals.
Patients visiting the state hospitals’ A&E departments often have to wait hours until staff can attend to them while those that have to be transferred to a hospital ward are left on a stretcher for several hours until a bed is found for them.
“Apart from the excessive workload due to understaffing of state hospitals, we are often faced with violent incidents that multiply due to the tolerance of the state,” the union said in an announcement.
It added that it has been warning the health and justice ministries for the past two years over the lack of a safe working environment in state hospitals.
“People need to understand that the staff, especially nurses, are the least responsible for the poor conditions at the A&Es but are the ones to pay the price,” it said.
Following repeated unsuccessful pleas with the health ministry, it said, they are left with no choice but “to react and protect our members”.
Head of Pasyno Panayiotis Georgiou told state broadcaster CyBC that although police officers are present at the state hospitals’ A&Es no one has been arrested for any of these incidents.
“The state, either due to inability or indifference allow these people (attackers) go into hospitals and do as they please,” he said. He added that if no one is punished, it encourages others.
Georgiou said that despite many witnesses to these incidents, no arrest has been made so far.
“We have a report by two female nurses that they have been attacked and photos of the broken items, but no arrest has been made,” he said.
The majority of female nurses working in the A&Es, he said, ask to be transferred to other departments because they feel they are an easy target.
He also questioned what would happen if a nurse under attack defended himself.
“Then what? Would he lose his job on top of everything?” Georgiou asked.
He added the two-hour work stoppage is just the beginning and that if there is no response on behalf of the state, they would escalate their protests.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said that after the incident on Sunday, a police officer had escorted the alleged attacker outside the premises.
He added that the two female nurses had told police they did not want the man to be criminally prosecuted, but that police were investigating the incident anyway and taking testimonies from witnesses.
The police chief has asked for a report into the handling of the case, Angelides said.
He added that a committee is to be set up to examine keeping order in public hospitals.