Cyprus Mail

Coronavirus: Okypy rejects censure from medical staff unions

Photo: CNA

Cyprus’ health system was faring well so far despite increasing pressure because of the coronavirus pandemic, state health services organisation (Okypy) said Tuesday, rejecting criticism from health professionals that it had no action plan as “union tactics”.

Both state doctors’ union, Pasyki, and nurses, Pasyno, accused Okypy of lacking a plan to tackle the growing needs in hospitals as more Covid patients needed hospitalisation, putting more strain on the health system.

Pasyki chairman Sotiris Koumas suggested that Okypy had ignored its “timely calls for a comprehensive and coordinated plan for the management of the pandemic when there was still time.”

Nurses also claimed the ICUs were understaffed and decisions were made without consulting them.

Okypy spokesman Charalambos Charilaou rejected the accusations, saying Koumas has been criticising the organisation nonstop for quite some time.

“The answer to Mr Koumas, Pasyki, or any other union, is that there is an action plan; the action plan was sent to Mr Koumas months ago; he knew months ago where each bed would be deployed in every hospital, he knew about personnel, he knew about the manner of operation,” Charilaou said.

The Okypy spokesman said the island’s health system has managed to hold on so far despite the pressure.

“We don’t have any particular problems; yes, we have a large number of patients in public hospitals, but the situation is manageable,” he said.

Okypy has deployed additional beds in response to increasing admissions that are expected to peak towards the end of the month.

At the same time, Charilaou said, state hospitals continued to provide healthcare to patients with other ailments, including chronic sufferers.

He suggested Pasyki was kicking up a fuss in a bid to win certain demands.

“What Mr Koumas is saying is that at the end of the day the pandemic should be tackled by a handful of doctors, five, six physicians, five, six, pulmonologists, with the help of the private sector, while other (state) specialists are left out, something impossible,” Charilaou said.

He added: “We must all realise that we are in the midst of a pandemic and we must all help.”

Charilaou said they were reacting because their colleagues – “theirs, not us” — who were working with Covid patients, had asked them to take on one night shift every three months.

“This relentless war is being waged because pathology specialties who had been asked to take on one night shift every three months to help the Covid ward,” he added.

Of a nurse’s statement, Okypy said it was full of inaccuracies and unfounded claims, which distorted the truth regarding the organisation’s superhuman efforts to tackle the pandemic.

In a statement on Monday, state nurses’ union Pasyno said ICUs were understaffed while personnel had not been trained in the management of Covid, despite assurances given in the summer.

Pasyno claimed decisions by Okypy were taken by people who have no clinical experience.

It said decisions were made without consulting the union or at least informing it so that it can convey the changes and instructions.

Pasyno said it was a “bad administration that increased problems instead of resolving them, resulting in burdening nurses physically and mentally with resulting effects on patients’ health and safety.”

Okypy said it has developed good cooperation with the nurses’ unions and was in close contact with them regarding any problems.

“But it must be understood that managing the organisation and hospitals was the job of the people entrusted by the state with the responsibility and not trade unions,” Okypy said in a statement.

The organisation said it has displayed a lot of patience and good will but Pasyno’s leadership used threats, mudslinging, and rubbished everything on a daily basis without basic justification.

Okypy said management of the pandemic was the work of an operating team of clinicians, nurses, executive and scientific directors, and other health officials, and all decisions were taken in consultation with department heads in all hospitals.

According to Okypy, in all cases where deploying new beds was required, union representatives also took part in decision making, especially those at the Nicosia general hospital’s ICUs.

“To date, the ratio of nurses per Covid-19 patient is considered as the best among EU countries and this can easily be determined by various publications but also the results of the patients,” Okypy said.

In recent months, Okypy said it hired over 250 nurses, it has cut beds and surgeries to gain more staff, “but unfortunately, during this critical period, over 20 per cent of nurses are absent for various reasons.”

Earlier, Charilaou said the absences were due to sick leaves, or maternity leaves, or parents looking after children, or being contacts of confirmed Covid cases, or having the virus itself.

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