Nurses are “often treated with contempt”, trade union Pasydy’s nursing branch said on Friday.

In a statement released ahead of International Nurses Day on Sunday, the union said nurses are being treated in such a way despite the fact they are “the cornerstone of the health system”.

They added that financial constraints on Cyprus’ healthcare system are “preventing investment in the strengthening and development of nursing science”.

For this reason, they said, they are trying to change people’s views on nursing and highlight how investment in the profession can contribute positively to both the economy and society in general.

We are seeking to give nursing the recognition it deserves, as it is an essential part of the healthcare sector,” they said.

Meanwhile, the Pancyprian nurses’ and midwives’ association (Pasynm) called on Cyprus’ political leadership as well as nurses’ employees to protect the nursing and midwifery professions and invest in them.

They added that this should be done to “create and improve support mechanisms concerning these people’s welfare, ensuring health and safety at work, and respecting their rights.”

Additionally, they said strategies should be developed to attract, recruit, and retain nurses and midwives to address “the significant shortages currently being seen in our country”.

This, they said, should be backed up by a budget which will attract and retain nurses and midwives in Cyprus’ healthcare system and ensure numbers of both will remain healthy in the future.

The government had made the right noises in terms of its support for nurses of late, with Health Minister Michael Damianos having praised nurses for their “multilayered and multidimensional role”, adding that nursing “has the human at its centre and always acts based on humanitarian values”.

He said they have “the experience and knowledge which can lead on a daily basis to the improvement of efficiency, effectiveness, the provision of quality care, and the achievement of optimal outcomes for patients and the general population.”

However, these words came as nurses penned a letter to him expressing concern regarding training of nurses in Cyprus in relation to the European Union’s mutual recognition of standards and professional qualifications.

Their concerns relate to the planned reduction of the number of hours in Cyprus required to train a nurse to 3,800. Such a reduction would not comply with the EU minimum of 4,600 hours, which nurses say could endanger patient safety and will infringe upon their human rights.

In the letter, they said Cypriot nurses’ EU freedom of movement “will be jeopardised if we discard the directive”, as their qualifications would no longer be recognised as having met the minimum European standards.

They added, “patient health and safety are of paramount importance, especially in these very difficult times. If we want to be better prepared for the next health crisis, in whatever form it may come, we must not lower the barrier for nurses to qualify.”