Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

‘State siding with insurance firms’

CyBC

A FURLOUGHED journalist with state broadcaster CyBC, who in 2007 was diagnosed with encephalitis and whose disability benefit was cut late last year, has accused the state of siding with insurance companies and employers at the expense of employees.

In an open letter to the media, Evdokia Loizou, 44, said the system is stacked against workers who claim disability for occupational diseases.

In 2012, she recalled, the labour inspection department itself acknowledged that her disease was caused by the environment at CyBC.

The department ruled that biological and chemical contamination had been detected at the workplace “due to the uncontrolled presence of animals in the workplace attributed to the poor condition of the premises” as well as large accumulation of bacteria and poor ventilation.

Despite this, in November 2017 a medical board that examined her decided to rescind her disability pension of €940 per month – her only source of income.

According to Loizou, the medical board relied heavily on the input of a doctor who works for the insurance company providing coverage. The doctor diagnosed her as suffering from psychological ailments, which she says is very “suspicious.”

This, she added, shows how the system is skewed in favour of employers, as insurance companies have unfettered access to medical boards.

Loizou goes on to mention that the same doctor was said by the auditor-general’s office to have embezzled state funds, which he was later forced to return.

The journalist was forced to stop working at CyBC in May 2010. The broadcaster’s board decided to stop paying her salary in April 2014.

In a December 21, 2017 medical report, neurologist at the UK’s National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery Michael Hanna said Loizou had been evaluated on many occasions and was found to experience significant neurological fatigue, intermittent oxygen desaturations (reduction in blood oxygen levels) and intermittent respiratory difficulties.

“Unfortunately, she is not able to work. Her health condition is not stable. She fatigues easily on minimal exertion which worsens her condition. She continues treatment by the specialist team in London until her health condition is stabilised,” Hanna said.

Loizou has meantime sued the CyBC.

In her letter, the journalist notes there is a standardised social services form – dating to the 1960s – which government employees have to fill out to claim benefits for work-related illnesses or accidents.

Incredibly, Loizou says, this application form requires the signature/consent of the employer.

Encephalitis is recognised as an occupational disease in Cyprus, provided that the claimant can produce medical documentation to this effect.

However, Loizou says, the problem is that in Cyprus there are two different laws in force since 2007 which consequently establish two separate lists of acknowledged occupational diseases, and thus two separate categories of insured persons.

This is in contravention of EU law, which requires member-states to have a single list of occupational diseases.