HEALTH minister Giorgos Pamboridis has never been one to hide behind verbal niceties in order to avoid confrontation, which is the preferred approach of politicians dealing with interest groups and especially public-sector unions. On Tuesday, presenting a review of his time at the ministry, Pamboridis singled out the refusal of government doctors to help out temporarily at the Nicosia General hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU). This refusal, which did not honour the medical profession, shocked him, he said.
It would shock most people, who believe that the primary concern of all doctors was to provide healthcare to patients, as this is quite clearly not the case at state hospitals at which the me-culture promoted by the unions reigns supreme. Helping hospitals meet the healthcare needs of their patients does not seem to concern the unionised doctors, so when the ministry asked three hospital doctors, with a second specialisation in intensive care, to help out temporarily at the Nicosia General’s ICU, which was short-staffed, they all refused.
Their argument was straight out of the union work-to-rule manual. They were hired to work as specialists in different fields and had no obligation to work at the ICU, was their response. This behaviour would not have been accepted from workers in any private sector organisation or business, but in the Cyprus public sector, controlled by powerful unions, employees do as they please. We would have thought this attitude would have been kept out of state hospitals that are dealing with people’s lives, but we would have been wrong. Doctors were not willing to help out at the Nicosia General’s understaffed ICU, the island’s main ICU, despite putting their overworked colleagues under more pressure and diminishing the standard of care.
Speaking on state radio on Wednesday morning, the head of the hospital doctors’ union (Pasyki), Iacovos Koumas, illustrated the union mentality when he accused Pamboridis of threatening to transfer the three doctors that refused to work at the ICU to other hospitals. Public sector employees should be allowed to ignore the instructions of their employer, which are aimed at offering a better service to people, with impunity, according to union thinking. Sadly, this is the case and the reason doctors behave so selfishly.
The government does not have the power to terminate the employment of such bad professionals and so has decided to enter an agreement with the Greek state that would allow it to employ Greek doctors at state hospitals. Pasyki is protesting about this because it fears it might reduce its power and the harmful impact of its disruptive behaviour. It is the only course left open to the government, which may have finally realised that the national health scheme (Gesy) will never be introduced without a full-on confrontation with Pasyki that has been doing everything it can to block it, including stopping its members working at the ICU.