Nurses will hold a work stoppage outside public hospitals on Thursday to protest understaffing, union representatives announced on Tuesday.

“For a year now, even after signing the agreement stating a shortage of 138 nurses at hospitals, Okypy has made no moves towards resolving anything,” Pasyno spokesman Theodoros Petelis said, adding that the organisation’s spokesman now claims there is no understaffing.

The stoppage will be from noon to 1pm and will include nurses who are members of Pasydy and Pancyprian nurses union Pasyno.

Speaking on CyBC radio, Petelis called Okypy’s claim that there is no issue of understaffing in public hospitals alarming. He recalled that a year ago, the same organisation had agreed that hospitals were about 140 nurses short.

“The letters we sent to the organisation mentioning said understaffing have remained unanswered, which is why, together with Pasydy, we have been forced to proceed with this stoppage as a first protest measure,” he added.

The striking nurses want to show the public that what they are going through as employees cannot continue, and reflect what is going on at state hospitals today, Petelis further explained.

He said Okypy’s officials have become unreliable and indicated that if the problem is not resolved other measures will be announced.

Thursday’s protest will not disrupt the running of hospitals as only off-duty nurses and those who work in departments that do not affect patient services will participate.

“Our aim is not to further burden the situation, but to improve health and safety for the workers and consequently the quality of the services we provide to our patients,” he concluded.

He added that there have been complaints from the federation of patient associations (Osak), since the patients themselves are complaining about the understaffing of departments in terms of nurses.

“The public themselves are shouting, demanding proper and quality services from the organisation,” he said.

Head of Pasydy’s nurses branch Prodromos Argyridis echoed Petelis’ statements, adding that with their stoppage, nurses intend to “send a message of determination, that we will not be taking this any longer”.

Argyrides also told reporters that according to information Pasydy has, the positions that need to be filled are actually over 170.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Michalis Damianos said he was confident Okypy will in the next 24 hours submit a proposal to address the issues concerning the nurses.

Also speaking to CyBC, he said it is imperative for the two sides to have intensive consultations so that the issue can be resolved as soon as possible.

He stressed that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, acknowledging that there is a general lack of nursing staff in Cyprus and that things would be better if there were more nurses available.

Quizzed on potential solutions, the health minister said that caregivers may be hired to cover the gaps, which is also Okypy’s position on the matter.

He also said that some nurses who perform administrative or other duties could return to clinical work, acknowledging that someone who has been performing other duties for ten years cannot be forced to return to clinical work.