Doctors on Thursday morning started their planned 24-hour work stoppage over uncertainty in medical malpractice suit insurance while the state health organisation called for an immediate end to the “pointless” strike.

Charalambos Charilaou, spokesman for the state health organisation (Okypy) reiterated on CyBC’s morning radio that the strike was unnecessary. All doctors currently have professional insurance coverage with state guarantee through a transitional arrangement, while procurement is underway for coverage from a private insurer, the spokesman said.

The large volume of doctors to be covered is making the procurement process take longer than expected, Charilaou said, adding that the doctor’s unions had been informed in writing in a timely manner on April 21.

“This process requires a lot of time and diligence, due to the complexity of the nature of the specific insurance, but also because there was never in the past the need to insure the doctors of public hospitals, since the state de facto insured the workers who were subject to it,” Okypy said in an announcement.

According to public hospital doctors’ union (Pasyki), the relevant state agencies, including the ministry of health, the ministry of finance, and the legal service, failed in providing their employees with insurance benefits accorded in legislations.

The union’s ire seems to center on the extension of the transitional period –originally to end in March–though December, a development Pasyki has equated with the state organisation dragging its feet.

In response to Charilaou’s statements, union president Sotiris Koumas said that they did not expect anything different from Okypy.

“It is their standard response to everything to claim that there is no issue,” he said. “The daily scenarios in public hospitals, however, do not support such claims. For us, there is an issue and our request is simple.”

Chiming in to support the striking doctors, the Cyprus Medical Association released a statement on Thursday, saying that the law on professional insurance for all state-employed doctors must be implemented and their situation clarified.

“The matter is of critical importance and under no circumstances should doctors be left exposed and uninsured, be they permanent, seconded, temporary or indefinite hires,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, doctors belonging to the civil servants’ union (Pasydy) announced they would not join Thursday’s strike. According to Charilaou, the union sent a letter acknowledging the extension of the transitional coverage scheme and their satisfaction with it on April 27.

However, Pasydy has warned that if dialogue with Okypy does not prove fruitful the possibility of strike action will be considered. The union is scheduled to meet with Okypy management at 11:30 am.

“There are many outstanding issues and Okypy has not progressed on any of them for the past five years. Their grace period is running out,” spokesman for the union, Stratis Mattheou, told CyBC.

Okypy previously offered assurances to the public that in hospitals and clinics where Pasyki doctors are employed, the necessary number of physicians will be available to meet the needs of emergency cases.

Regarding the cancellation of appointments, it is the responsibility of each hospital to inform patients.

The strike had been scheduled for 7:30 am on Thursday until 7:30 am on Friday.