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Our View: Weekend clinics supposed to be in interest of patients, not doctors

There was a relatively positive outcome to Thursday’s mass meeting of stakeholders under the minister of health, that discussed the provision of healthcare at weekends. It would be nice to say, it brings to an end many months of squabbling among the stakeholders, but it does not seem to be over yet.

An announcement issued by the health ministry after the meeting said that start of weekend health care would materialise on July 9 in all districts, as long as all the pending issues that were raised in earlier meetings were resolved. Would they be resolved in two weeks so that the deadline is met, or will there be more meetings of stakeholders and the minister?

There was a breakthrough in one regard. The health ministry said: “All the stakeholders recognise that public hospitals constitute the backbone of the Health System and, as such, the start of the weekend system would start from the facilities of Okypy, being the biggest provider of healthcare in Cyprus.”

That was one pending issue out of the way but another, which will be more difficult to resolve is the insistence of the hospital doctors’ union Pasyki on banning personal doctors from working at the weekend health centres. The union’s dogmatic position is that it cannot accept the provision of facilities of the public sector to private doctors.

It is as if the so-called government doctors own the public hospitals and they have the authority to decide who will work there. It is the way unions in all public or semi-public entities operate – they behave as if we live in a socialist state in which workers’ cooperatives are running everything – because they have been allowed to do so, by the politicians.

The irony is that the government doctors who are constantly complaining that they are overworked doing five days a week, now want to also work at weekend health centres. Would they be prepared to work six or seven days a week, or will they take days off during the week, thus causing staff shortages at hospitals? Perhaps, once they secure the monopoly at the weekend health centres, their union would negotiate higher pay and special benefits for them for working weekends.

Giving in to this to this demand would be a big mistake, because the doctors’ union would hold Okypy and the Health Insurance Organisation to ransom. It makes much more sense to also use the services of personal doctors from the private sector as this would ensure there would be no shortage of doctors for staffing the weekend health centres and limit union threats. Okypy and the HIO must understand that the weekend health centres are being set up to look after the interests of patients and not the government doctors.

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