Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides said on Thursday he would ask the attorney-general to examine if criminal offences arise from a case concerning five state doctors who threatened the health minister they would resign if a colleague of theirs was transferred to their hospital.
Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis on Thursday informed the House watchdog committee on the circumstances around the incident.
The case concerns five doctors from the Limassol general hospital, who sent a letter to Pamboridis threatening to resign if a physician at the Kyperounda hospital’s pulmonary clinic, was transferred to their department. The doctors reportedly said in their letter that their colleague was inefficient and was behaving badly.
The doctor in question, who had been informed that he was to be transferred to the Limassol hospital, has been reportedly since taking consecutive sick leave days.
MPs asked Pamboridis to explain why his ministry did not go ahead with the transfer.
The committee heard that even though the ministry’s permanent secretary dismissed the letter as blackmail, Pamboridis decided not to go ahead with the transfer for reasons of public interest citing long waiting lists and patients that are being treated.
“The least I could do was to postpone the transfer,” Pamboridis said.
He added that he ordered a disciplinary probe into the matter which could lead to a criminal investigation.
Pamboridis also said that several MPs had interfered in the case, some in favour and others against the doctor’s transfer.
“Everyone seeks to create a kingdom within the civil service,” Pamboridis said.
He added that there are “patrons in the political, religious and journalistic world”.
Following the committee meeting, the minister said he rejected claims made in the Audit Office report on the matter that he had acted without commitment to the public interest.
“I explained to the MPs of the watchdog committee the reasons why I reject the report in question and I gave an account of my actions. There will be developments on this issue,” he said.
Michaelides told MPs that the law on nepotism also provides for transfers of civil servants and what constitutes an offence in such cases.
“Our service will send tomorrow morning to the AG the (issue of the) transfer to look into whether the doctors who sent the letter have committed a criminal offence,” Michaelides said.
He added that four of the five doctors had signed the letter.
Pamboridis also stressed the importance of clustering health centres in rural areas, which is part of health reform. The way these health centres currently operate, he said, could be considered as a waste of public funds. These centres serve 165 communities of mountainous areas. He said that doctors, nurses and pharmacists that visit these centres, spend 35per cent of their working time on the road.