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Health ministry urges public to report doctors seen slacking

The health ministry on Thursday urged the public to report any doctors in state health centres who refuse to see patients during working hours.

The Patients and Friends Federation (Posfp) complained that some state doctors working in outpatient clinics stop seeing patients some three hours before their shift ends and after they have examined their daily quota of 30 patients.

Speaking to daily Phileleftheros, the head of the Posfp, Marios Kouloumas, said they had received several reports concerning such doctors who refuse to see any more patients after they have examined their 30 per day. This concerned mainly Nicosia but they had received reports from other districts as well.

The quota was proposed by state doctors’ union Pasyki some three years ago, based on international best practices. Pasyki proposed that for general physicians to provide better quality health care, they had to see between 30 and 35 patients during their 7.5-hour shift, instead of seeing double the number but not paying due attention to each one because of time restrictions.

But according to Kouloumas, instead, some doctors took advantage of this, and after reaching their quota by 11am or by noon, they refused to see any more patients between then and 3pm when their working day officially ends.

Patients, he said were being forced to rush to health centres to make sure they are among the first 30 people seen. He said patients reported that even though there might be no one else in the waiting room, even if it was before 3pm, some doctors still refuse to see them.

The health ministry said that they had not officially received such a complaint from patients but urged the public to come forward if they know of such cases.

“The working hours for the civil service are between 7.30am and 3pm. No one should leave earlier or be in their offices and refuse to see patients,” the head of the health minister’s office, Anastasia Anthousi told the Cyprus Mail.

Doctors, she said, ought to see those 30 patients throughout their working day. She added that some doctors may even include in their daily quota patients who just visit them for a prescription refill.

Head of Pasyki, Soteris Koumas, told Phileleftheros that they heard of such incidents, and after investigating, it emerged that, in their majority, they are not members of the union.

He blamed the health ministry for not properly checking on their staff.

The head of doctors’ branch of Pasydy civil servants’ union, Agathoklis Christofides too said that if such cases exist, it is up to the health ministry to investigate and take measures.

Both, Koumas and Christofides said that it does not concern the unions.

Anthousis said that state doctors are being checked by their superiors in state hospitals. “They ought to check up on them,” she said.

She reiterated the health ministry’s position that this was more proof that the existing system was failing. “It does no justice to those who do work and favours those who don’t do their job,” she said.

Koumas also turned against organised patients groups, and warned them that they were “entering into dangerous waters”.

He said it was not for patients to act as watchers to state doctors, but if they do, they should report fairly.  “They fail to report how many state doctors go over and above and see more than 50 patients per day,” Koumas told state broadcaster radio CyBC.

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