A €12m contract for the first phase of a new psychiatric health hospital in Nicosia was signed on Thursday, with the move hailed by ministers as a major step towards greater patient care.

The project has a timeframe of 24 months and just over half of it is being bankrolled by the EU recovery fund, at a sum of €6.8m.

There has been a string of controversies over mental health care and support, primarily centred on Athalassa hospital. It was constructed in 1964 and parts of it were declared unfit for human habitation by the town planning department in 2019.

The ceremony was attended by Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas and Cyfield Construction Limited.

Hadjipantelas told the media that mental health support was a top priority.

“Mental health and its support infrastructure constitute a key pillar of the health services’ operation in Cyprus,” he said.

The project will cover an area of 4,500 square metres, according to a transport ministry press release, and will also have 50 beds for patients in serious need, an ECT clinic as well as nursing and medical staff rooms.

A care unit for addicts will have 18 beds along with a gym, staff training rooms, nursing and medical staff rooms, and a multi-purpose area for occupational therapy.

For his part, Karousos said that the project will help ensure that mental health patients receive the support they require, with full respect for their rights.

A June report found that the new mental health centre for Athalassa will take €7,639,000 from the recovery fund and is expected to be completed by 2023.

The second phase of the project was reported to raise the total budget to around €40m.