The cause of death of a 77-year-old man who died in a taxi on the way to Paphos hospital after he was referred there by medics at Polis, was abdominal aneurysm, police said on Thursday.

Paphos CID chief Michalis Nicolaou said fisherman Paraskevas Pavlou had suffered a saccular abdominal aortic aneurysm, according to a post-mortem conducted on Thursday.

Police have launched an investigation into Tuesday’s death after relatives filed a formal complaint claiming medical negligence.

Nicolaou said police have so far taken several statements and were waiting for the health minister to appoint a medical officer to assist the investigation.

Pavlou visited Polis Chrysochous hospital early in the evening with intense pains in the abdomen.

The doctor on duty referred him to the general hospital of Paphos which is a 40-to-60-minute drive away (35-43km) without providing an ambulance for his transport.

Following the death, locals complained that the Polis hospital was understaffed and ill-equipped, blaming the ministry for not responding to their repeated calls to resolve the matter.

The state health services organisation (Okypy) said it had not yet received a complete report on the matter, but its information said the man had visited the hospital twice – once in the previous evening and once on the evening of his death.

Of suggestions that there was no ambulance available, Okypy spokesman Charalambos Charilaou said Polis had an independent ambulance station with three vehicles, one used for rescues in rugged terrain, while the other two served the area.

“You do realise the entire Nicosia district has four ambulance stations covering the residents’ needs,” he told Alpha television. “Let us not reach the conclusion that 10 ambulances must be stationed there to be able to respond to two or three calls at the same time.”

Polis Mayor Yiotis Papachristophi accused Okypy of stripping the hospital of specialised staff who had been transferred to Limassol and Paphos because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He also said that two crews staffed the ambulances during the daytime and one during the night.

Papachristophi said it appeared doctors did not assess the situation correctly, seeking to save the crew for a potentially more urgent incident.