By Nikolaos Prakas and Jonathan Shkurko

A patient suspected of setting fire to his room at Athalassa psychiatric hospital is in serious condition in the Nicosia General intensive care unit (ICU), authorities said on Friday.

The fire spread to a ward of the hospital on Thursday evening, necessitating the evacuation of all the patients from the area, after the patient, 47, set fire to his mattress.

Authorities said that the individual suspected of starting the fire was taken to ICU with third degree burns, while another Athalassa patient was also hospitalised after experiencing respiratory issues from the blaze.

After the fire broke out, three nurses had to break into the room from the balcony door, as it was the only way to get into the ward.

They managed to help get the patients out of the room, after which they were rushed by ambulance to Nicosia General.

Speaking in the evening, state health services organisation (Okypy) spokesman Pambos Charilaou said the 47-year-old was in a room meant for people who are about to be released, and as such are given access to matches for some time during the day, so that they may smoke.

The three nurses that managed to rescue the two men from the flaming ward, were also taken to the hospital and released after treatment.

Charilaou added that an investigation has been launched into the incident by both the fire services and the police.

Due the damage, he said that 25 patients in the wing were taken to other wings of the hospital.

In the aftermath of the fire, nurses voiced concerns about the hospital being overcrowded.

“Had we not reacted immediately, there would have been more casualties,” the spokesperson of the nurses’ union Pasyno Dometios Skouroupathis told the media on Friday.

“When a ward meant for 27 patients is managed by only six nurses, handling emergencies becomes exceedingly difficult.”

The Pasyno spokesperson called on the responsible authorities need to address staffing issues urgently, highlighting the dangers during emergencies, especially in aged facilities like the Athalassa psychiatric hospital.

In the meantime, according to Charilaou, said all the patients whose rooms were damaged by the fire were transferred to safe areas within the hospital.

In an announcement later, public workers’ union Pasydy expressed their gratitude to the three nurses that broke into the ward to help save the patients, and the union also said they hoped the three would get better soon.

They also thanked all the nursing staff at the hospital for their help in dealing with the blaze and their self-sacrifice.