Public doctors in Cyprus, some of whose annual salaries have surged to €150,000 since the implementation of the national health scheme (Gesy), are now in dispute with their employer, the state health services organisation (Okypy), over one of their financial benefits.

The dispute is the reason behind the scheduled strike on Thursday.

Approximately 650 specialist doctors have seen a benefit they receive every six months reduced since the health insurance organisation (HIO) downgraded public hospitals to category 2 last year.

Among state hospitals only one, Nicosia general, remains in the category 1 class, resulting in significant funding losses for Okypy.

According to the head of Pasyki doctors’ union Soteris Koumas, the downgrade has also impacted one of the less lucrative financial benefits of state doctors. The specific benefit, distributed biannually, sees some professionals pocketing up to €2,000 or more, he told CyBC radio on Tuesday.

And since the downgrade, doctors have seen a reduction of this amount, which Koumas claims violates their agreement with Okypy.

“We are entitled to our wages,” he said, explaining that doctors are putting the same amount of work in.

He also criticised Okypy for passively accepting the downgrade of public hospitals.

This benefit, along with others provided monthly, was established in 2020 to incentivise state doctors who were leaving to be remain in private hospitals.

While doctors are still planning to strike because they argue the agreement with Okypy is being violated, the organisation insists they are adhering to it.

Okypy spokesman Charalambos Charilaou said the organisation “appreciates and recognises doctors’ work, and honours the agreement”.

He said there has always been a cap to the amount of total benefits, and that now doctors are seeking to amend the agreement.

Public doctors receive approximately €150,000 annually, excluding benefits such as paid holidays and pension schemes.

“We don’t owe anything according to our own calculations,” Charilaou said.

In a separate issue concerning shortage of nurses in public hospitals, trade unions are set to take dynamic measures. They argue that Okypy has delayed addressing these issues, which affect both patients and the nurses’ ability to take their allowed time off without leaving hospital wards understaffed.

However, trade union Pasydy’s spokesman Prodromos Argiridis said nurses are expected to decide on the measures they will take which they will aim to have minimal impact on the patients during their scheduled meeting on Tuesday.

“[Okypy] are not consistent to what we agree upon,” Argiridis said.