For years now, there have been attempts by the state to set up university clinics that would be used by the medical school of the University of Cyprus. The first attempt was made by the previous rector of UCy almost a decade ago, but it was resoundingly defeated by the vehement reaction of the government doctors’ union, Pasyki, who did not want better-qualified outsiders taking charge of hospital clinics and on higher pay than them.

Since then, the government has been at pains to find a way of opening university clinics at Nicosia general hospital, but without any success. Pasyki, which has always acted as if public hospitals are its ownership, with the backing of most political parties, has blocked the opening of university clinics at every turn, one of its main demands being that its members are put in charge of these clinics.

On Tuesday it was reported that Health Minister Michalis Damianos had entered a new bout of negotiations with all interested parties in the hope of settling the matter. He said, however, that there were many differences between them which had submitted their proposals in writing.

“This is why in the first fortnight in June we will commence a new round of consultations and discussions, with the ultimate aim of shaping a bill that will not cause everyone to disagree with everything,” said Damianos.   

He had set an early autumn deadline for submitting the clinics bill to the legislature and the plan was for it to include enough convergences so that discussions do not have to start from scratch, said the minister. The minister’s search for convergences, after almost 10 years of failed efforts, betrays his inexperience. It also highlights the politicians’ folly of always looking for consensus, something that invariably results in bad solutions.

In the case of university clinics, the doctors’ union should not have been consulted. They are employees of Nicosia general – not shareholders – and do not have a say in how the state decides to use it. Government doctors will not lose their jobs, have their pay reduced or have their work conditions changed by the operation of university clinics, so why are they being consulted?

If the state – their employer – wants to bring in outsiders, with better qualifications and greater medical experience in order to train doctors, it needs nobody’s permission to do so. Certainly not that of a union like Pasyki, which has proved beyond all doubt that its only concern is the financial well-being of its members. Why is it being consulted and allowed to block the establishment of clinics, which it should have no say on?

The reality is that the union is blocking the process for the sole purpose of securing more advantages for its overpaid and entitled members. This is why the minister should stop these absurd consultations, finalise the bill and submit it to the legislature for approval. The establishment of university clinics need neither the consent nor the approval of self-serving union.