The government on Tuesday denied President Nikos Christodoulides interfered with the health minister’s role in a strike at Famagusta general hospital.
Nursing and medical unions had announced a half-hour work stoppage at the hospital but reportedly called it off following the intervention of Christodoulides.
The president called from Greece to promise a proper hearing of the union’s claims upon his return, head of the nurses’ union, Panayiotis Georgiou, told CyBC.
But government spokesman Constantinos Letymbiotis said, “there was no interference. He was communicating with the health minister throughout.”
The stoppage which was to have taken place at noon, was called in support of two members of the nursing staff who are to be let go by the state health services (Okypy), under conditions the union considers unfair.
The two nurses were taken on during the first wave of the pandemic, Georgiou said, and had served their posts diligently under difficult circumstances, at a time when neither the transmissibility nor the virulence of Covid-19 were clearly known.
The nurses were initially placed on a 10-month contract and were subsequently re-hired four times under six-month contracts, for a total of 24 months. Had their contract been renewed for another six months, under Okypy’s current hiring regulations, their position would default to permanent.
This, however, did not happen, Georgiou said, despite promises by the outgoing health ministry and the Anastasiades government that a solution would be found.
The result is that on Tuesday one of the nurses’ contracts expired and the other’s is due to expire at end of month.
“The half-hour work stoppage was not intended to inconvenience any patients, but to bring publicity to the matter in a show of solidarity to these staff members, something that was achieved,” Georgiou said, adding that it did not make sense to let experienced staff go at a time when nurses are in shortage.
Okypy said that well-known processes for hiring staff cannot be legally circumvented under any conditions, despite the diligence of the nurses in question.
Of the three staff members originally impacted, one had already been re-hired, the state organisation said. The remaining two can re-apply for employment once a formal announcement of open positions is published.