The health ministry is ready to provide the state health service (Okypy) with all the funds required to ensure the smooth operation of Polis Chrysochous hospital, minister Michalis Hadjipantelas said on Tuesday.

He spoke after a meeting in Polis to discuss residents’ protests that understaffing at the hospital was endangering lives. It came a fortnight after a pensioner died in a taxi on his way to Paphos Hospital from Polis as the local hospital did not have an available ambulance to transfer him or an inpatient ward to treat him.

A post-mortem held the following day showed the 77-year-old fisherman had suffered an abdominal aneurism.

A meeting will be held with Okypy officials next week so that decisions can be taken by the end of the year, he added, noting that the issue was “very important and of the highest priority”.

He singled out bolstering the A&E with fully equipped ambulances and 24-hour operation of the X-ray and lab as key areas for action.

Residents also raised the issue of a cardiologist and specialist pathologists who were moved to Paphos and Limassol hospitals to cover needs in Covid wards there. The minister said he had promised the mayor of Polis and Paphos MPs that he would give them an implementation date before the end of the year.

But he also underlined the pressure on the health system from Covid, noting that the work being done should not be underestimated.

Mayor Yiotis Papachristofi said the minister had witnessed the frustration of residents in a region numbering more than 30 communities because the hospital was not operating as it should and promised to announce “real solutions” by the end of 2021.

Okypy president Marios Panayides acknowledged weaknesses at the hospital which had become more serious because of the pandemic and the transfer of some doctors.

He said the minister and the government would support action to resolve the problems, noting that it was not a question of money but providing the right service. And he pledged significant improvement would be made to the A&E.

Okypy director Christos Loizides spoke of the need for afternoon and night shifts at the X-ray department and the lab and said that provision for this has been made in the 2020-2022 budget. Tenders had been launched to buy services, but candidates did not satisfy the requirement as regards English. The tenders will be launched again so as to hire personnel and at least partially satisfy needs.

As regards doctors, he said five were employed in the A&E, and there were also two pathologists and one cardiologist who have however been transferred to Paphos and Limassol hospitals because of the pandemic. Earlier, other doctors had with the launch of Gesy opted to go private, he added.

And Dr Christos Nicolaou, scientific director of Okypy highlighted the need for a fully staffed A&E unit that will operate round the clock, supported by an X-ray department and lab. Also important is to be able to quickly transfer patients to Paphos Hospital for further tests. There should also be the capability to provide short term (24 to 48 hour) health care in the ward to clarify whether further treatment is needed, he said.