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Health ministry investigates doctor in response to accusations of cover-up

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou

The health minister on Monday launched a disciplinary probe against a doctor, as the ministry denied a report by the state broadcaster claiming a possible cover-up of a case that originally broke in 2015.

State broadcaster CyBC reported on Sunday that an administrative probe in 2016 had found possible offences, prompting the ministry to order a disciplinary investigation against a senior doctor working at Larnaca hospital. The probe concerned a complaint in relation to referrals to the private sector and hospitals abroad.

According to CyBC, the subsequent probe ignored the initial findings and closed the case. On January 27, 2017, the attorney-general wrote to the ministry asking it to launch a second probe into the medic, but nothing has been done since, the broadcaster said.

The ministry said on Monday that the letter was probably misplaced and never found, denying there had been an attempt to cover up the case. The ministry did not know about the letter until February of this year.

It added that even if the letter had not been misplaced the ministry wouldn’t have been able to launch a second disciplinary probe much earlier because the police had started criminal proceedings, which take precedent over anything else.

In a written response, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said the case file had been handed to him in March when he assumed office following the re-election of President Nicos Anastasiades.

“However, the matter was not dealt with immediately due to other priorities, like being briefed about the ministry’s daily business, as well as preparing the timeframes to complete the medium and long-range planning ahead of the state hospitals becoming autonomous and the introduction of the national health plan,” the minister said.

On May 29, the attorney-general’s office sent the ministry a fresh letter asking to be briefed on the progress of the case. Ioannou was informed the next day and decided to appoint an investigating officer.

The case dates back to 2016, when Ioannou’s predecessor, Giorgos Pamborides, who had just taken office, ordered an administrative probe to determine whether a complaint made in 2015 and apparently ignored, held water.

After determining that a doctor involved in the case could have committed disciplinary offences, the minister appointed another doctor serving at Larnaca hospital to carry out the disciplinary probe.

The person who had reported the case initially suggested that the investigator in question had a conflict of interest and asked for him to be replaced. To avoid any shadows, Pamborides replaced the investigator with a doctor from Nicosia and a probe was conducted.

The investigator found no wrongdoing but Pamborides asked the attorney-general for guidance in a letter dated January 5, 2017. The attorney-general wrote back on January 27 but the reply was apparently misfiled.

Nevertheless, in March 2017, Pamborides was informed that the police had launched a criminal investigation against the doctor, a fact that forces the termination of any other process.

Almost a year later, on February 23, 2018, the police informed the health ministry that they had concluded their probe and found no wrongdoing.

On January 18, 2018, the ministry’s permanent secretary wrote to the attorney-general referring to the January 5 letter. The attorney-general’s office responded a month later, pointing out that they had already replied a year before and attaching the response.

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