The nursing staff branch of trade union Pasydy on Thursday warned of potential strikes in response to ongoing understaffing issues in public hospitals, in a direct dig to the state health service (Okypy), which the union accused of overlooking the nurses’ contribution to people’s health and wellbeing in Cyprus.

Speaking on Radio Trito in the morning, Pasydy’s deputy general secretary Prodromos Argyrides said that the agreement made in February 2023 with Okypy regarding staffing needs in public hospitals has not been honoured, particularly as far as the needs of nurses are concerned.

According to Argyrides, the number of nurses in public hospitals “keeps decreasing for no reason whatsoever and issues arising to due staff on leave, including maternity leave, are never addressed.”

Argyrides said that, at the moment, there is a dire need to hire over 170 nurses in public hospitals. He added that Okypy has been given a deadline until Monday to clarify their plans to address the situation.

He then mentioned that some individuals, whom he did not directly name, are using “threats and intimidation to silence the nursing staff and their managers, urging them to stop protesting.”

Later on the same day, Okypy spokesperson Charalambos Charilaou defended his organisation, saying that it employs the largest number of nurses in Cyprus.

“Okypy employs about 3,500 nurses, three times more than the private sector, and operates 50 per cent of the beds within the national health scheme Gesy,” Charilaou said on Trito.

He also explained that, while some departments are short of one or two nurses, others have surplus staff.

“Therefore, it is clear to everyone how Okypy’s goal is to fully utilise the existing nursing staff.”

Charilaou also vehemently denied allegations of intimidating nurses, suggesting that the opposite might happen.

He concluded by giving assurances that the demands of the unions will be discussed and expressed confidence that a compromise will be found, so that strike actions can be avoided.

On Wednesday, Pasydy released a statement regarding what it called “a lack of apparent intention from the health ministry to address the significant staffing shortages caused by resignations, transfers, and a large number of staff on maternity or long-term sick leave.”

“Despite ongoing efforts by nursing units in collaboration with hospital management and the government, and despite agreements and documented needs since February 2023, there seems to be reluctance from the health ministry to implement agreed measures or tackle staffing shortfalls in clinical settings on a daily basis,” Pasydy’s statement said.

“Considering the gravity of the situation and our primary concern for the safe and dignified healthcare of people in public hospitals, as well as the working conditions of our members, we, in collaboration with our nursing units and other nursing trade unions, will take a series of measures to compel the health ministry to address the staffing issues seriously,” the statement concluded.