Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou intervened to calm nerves after the State Health Services Organisation (OKYPY) threatened medical staff tackling the deadly COVID-19 virus with pay cuts if protocols weren’t followed.
The unseemly row comes at a time when the health system is under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic with the government seeking to get everyone fighting in unison, but cracks are beginning to show.
Ioannou said in a statement issued on Tuesday that an OKYPY official had “crossed the line” when he threatened staff with pay cuts if they did not follow safety protocols.
The threats came from OKYPY’s Larnaca-Famagusta director George Karotsakis who said in a letter to nurses and doctors that: “Any worker who failed to wear a mask and came into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case would have to spend two weeks in quarantine without pay.”
The letter drew the ire of state doctors’ union PASYKI and the Cyprus Nurses Union PASYNO who slammed it as “unacceptable”.
“PASYKI publicly denounces such a policy and draws attention to the dangerous conditions in which our members are working,” a statement said.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been working tirelessly and altruistically to save and help as many of our compatriots as possible from COVID-19.”
PASYNO criticised OKYPY’s leadership, accusing them of sending them off to fight the coronavirus on their own without protective gear or proper leadership and guidance.
In a letter sent to the Health Minister, nurses’ union PASYNO said that state hospitals are not able to function due to the “the leadership of OKYPY which is not competent or qualified to handle the crisis brought on by the coronavirus. They can’t even perform their basic tasks…”
Nurses claimed that hospitals are disorganised as everyone is doing as they see fit, without instructions or protocols being followed.
The union said it has lost faith in OKYPY’s management.
“Instead of undertaking their own responsibilities, OKYPY’s managers are shifting their responsibilities for mistakes they have made to the nursing staff”.
PASYNO noted that “the virus is spreading dangerously in hospitals and we are the first victims, nurses and fellow health workers”.
“The people on the frontline are fighting an ‘invisible enemy’ while at the same time dealing with a health system which also sick”.