Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Wednesday neither he nor the state health services organisation Okypy will bow to threats after state doctors’ union Pasyki announced its members would go on a three-hour work stoppage on December 13.
Speaking after a cabinet meeting where his ministry’s 2020 budget was approved, Ioannou said state support to public hospitals has been tangible and essential.
At the same time, Ioannou sent a clear message to Pasyki over its decision to escalate industrial action from next week saying that he would not operate under constant threats.
The union informed the minister in a letter of the work stoppage citing lack of tangible progress in their dialogue with Okypy some five months after it started.
Head of Pasyki, Soteris Koumas told state broadcaster CyBC radio on Wednesday the decision was taken after the union deemed that the talks were not yielding any results while doctors’ flight from state hospital continues.
The dialogue between state doctors’ unions and Okypy concerns incentives for the public sector physicians to lessen the pay gap with their private sector colleagues.
The unions’ suggestion was for state doctors’ employer Okypy to distribute 20 per cent of the gross revenue it receives from Gesy operator HIO, (Health Insurance Organisation) to specialists working in public hospitals in the form of across-the-board raises, performance incentives and a percentage of the proceeds from hospitals.
Koumas said on Wednesday they were not just discussing monetary incentives but also others that would contribute to the smooth operation of state hospitals.
Okypy’s lack of support led members to escalate measures starting from next week, Koumas said.
The minister said he was surprised to learn about Pasyki’s decision especially since talks are ongoing. Okypy had asked the union to wait until January when it would be able to present a comprehensive incentive scheme.
“This decision is an attempt to exert pressure,” he said, adding they do not operate under blackmail.
He said that Pasyki is diminishing the work being done while its constant predictions on the collapse of state hospitals causes unnecessary upset to the staff causing doctors to leave and reducing patients’ confidence.
The minister added that it would have been very easy for Okypy to give the money the union is asking for but it also needs to consider the organisation’s viability.
Okypy is working on an incentive scheme expected to be presented to the board on December 12, and, if approved, presented to the unions, he said.
Ioannou said €11m from Okypy’s budget have been earmarked for incentives to family doctors and specialists, of which €9m will be given to specialists as part of the current consultations and concern outpatient care services.
When Gesy enters the second and final phase in June 1, 2020, when inpatient care will be introduced, incentives are expected to be higher, he said.