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Our View: Hospital staff sympathy-ploy strikes will not win over public

hospital strike 2
Doctors and nurses on strike outside the Limassol General Hospital's A&E in August

Public sector unions have always been strike-happy, but the two-hour work stoppage at the Limassol general A&E, which also sparked a sympathy strike by the Paphos hospital staff, defied belief. It was primarily aimed at attracting attention and making people feel sorry for doctors and nurses, whose sense of entitlement, not to mention rudeness, does not endear them to anyone.

The strike was called to protest ‘lack of protection’ provided to A&E staff, after three men attacked a doctor, nurse and police officer on duty on Thursday. The doctor, it was reported, suffered three arm fractures, while the men were arrested when reinforcements arrived, and subsequently appeared in court. That should have been the end of the story.

Had these incidents been frequent, a protest strike may have been justified, but since the start of the year only one other similar attack has been reported. A couple of months ago three drunk women attacked a nurse at Famagusta hospital, hitting her on the head. Everyone, from the health minister down, condemned the act and expressed their sympathy.

No other such incident has occurred since the start of the year, although A&E staff, reportedly, are often targets of verbal abuse from patients angered by having to wait for hours to be seen. We would have thought doctors and nurses would be accustomed to anti-social behaviour from patients, some of whom might be in pain or drunk. Dealing with such people is part of the job.

Use of any form of violence against staff is unacceptable, but the perpetrators of the two assaults were arrested, so nobody could claim that these acts go unpunished. To demand more police on duty at hospitals because of two incidents is absurd and a mindless waste of resources.

Interestingly, the head of the doctors’ union Pasyki, Dr Sotiris Koumas, speaking to reporters during Friday’s work stoppage, said that despite the fact that decisions had been taken on policing, the problem is deeper and related to public perception of hospitals.

“Often, we hear that at public hospitals this or that mistake is made, that we don’t offer good services, and that we are second or third-rate health providers, which is wrong.”

He has a point in claiming people may have been turned against hospital A&Es, but he was completely wrong in calling out the authorities. It is the doctors and nurses who need to assume their responsibilities, because only they can change the public’s perceptions. A start would be to stop calling strikes on the flimsiest of excuses. They will win over the public, not with strikes for sympathy, but by treating people with a little respect.

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