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Nurses’ union calls strike amid rift with ministry over disciplinary action

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File photo: Nurses demonstrate over safety concerns (CNA)

The health ministry said on Thursday it will press ahead with a disciplinary investigation of a number of mental health professionals despite threatened strike action from state nurses’ union Pasyno.

Pasyno has called on members to stage a 12-hour work stoppage next Monday in protest at the health ministry’s disciplinary inquiry against nurses employed at the Athalassa mental health hospital. The investigation was launched in January following a complaint filed by the Director of Mental Health Services Anna Paradisioti alleging that staff had refused to carry out their duties.

Pasyno had send a letter to the health ministry on June 1 asking it terminate the process arguing the staff were following union instructions and citing the absence of a protocol at the mental facility to handle Covid-19 positive cases.

In a written response to Pasyno’s letter, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said “no one is above the law” and that all complaints received by the ministry will be investigated.

“As a competent authority, I have to appoint an official, as provided by the Public Service Prefecture, Part VII Disciplinary Code, Article 81 (2) (a), to conduct an intra-departmental investigation, in order to determine whether these officials had committed a disciplinary offence,” Ioannou said.

He added that by demanding the “ongoing disciplinary proceedings” to stop “a few days before their completion” is an interference in the proceedings and an attempt by the union to alter the final decision.

But Pasyno argued that the minister had to order an investigation into the absence of a coronavirus protocol within Athalassa mental hospital.

“A year after the start of the pandemic, there was no action plan at Athalassa hospital to receive positive cases of Covid-19, resulting in a patient being placed in a room where neither protocols nor the basic safety and hygiene rules were observed,” the union said.

The investigation concerns the nurses who were instructed to treat the specific patient back in December.

The union also accused the minister of interfering with employees’ right to unionise, to which Ioannou responded by saying the claims were “non-existent and untrue” adding he respects “the whole trade union system” and has been supporting any “fair and reasonable demands”.

 

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