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Nurses still suffering from understaffing

New legislation may have opened the way for hospital autonomy as part of the new Cyprus National Health Scheme (NHS) but state nurses are calling for immediate action to combat chronic understaffing.

Speaking to state radio on Monday, the head of civil servant union PASIDY’s nurses branch, Prodromos Argyrides, said the problem had been going on for years, regularly leaving departments seriously understaffed whenever nurses were off sick for more than a few days or on maternity leave.

“We – in the very least – demand replacements for those on sick leave or maternity leave. Around 140 to 150 people are away at any given time for these various reasons but approval has only been given for 79 to be replaced,” he said, suggesting the number of replacements be raised to at least 150 to meet the true needs.

Argyrides noted that two thirds of the nurses had in recent years been replaced by younger people, many of whom were now taking maternity and parental leave and who he also anticipated would take paternity leave which was recently approved by parliament.

“The problem can only be expected to become worse now that legislation on paternity leave has been passed,” Argyrides said, noting that when a state school teacher was away “a substitute was ready and waiting to come in the door they had just left through”.

“Obviously children can’t be left without teachers but patients should patients be left without care?”

Argyrides said that apart from the nurses being away on maternity or long-term sick leave at any given time, around 85 had been transferred to other areas – effectively taking them away from hospital departments and wards where numbers are dwindling.

He noted these nurses had been seconded to other duties removed from their traditional duties, including teaching students at the Cyprus University of Technology or collecting data ahead of the NHS implementation.

These, Argyrides said, could not easily be brought back to usual duties whenever another nurse was away.

“There may be some 3,000 nurses at state hospitals but what happens when one of two at a rural medical centre gets sick?” he continued.

“The hospitals are struggling. I get phone calls from nurses every day complaining they can’t do their jobs properly because of understaffing.”

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