North health sector in crisis
By Kyriacos Kiliaris
Turkish Cypriots are witnessing the collapse of their public health system as doctors are departing the public sector one after the other.
A total of 14 doctors have resigned over the first seven months of the year, five of whom handed in their notice last month.
The en-mass exodus of physicians adds to the already troubled public health sector in the north. Shortages in frontline medication, HIV drugs and of vital equipment such as a CT scanner and respirators are frequent subjects in the Turkish Cypriot media.
According to claims by Turkish Cypriot public doctors’ union TIP-IS, following the five medics’ recent departure, departments of the public hospital in north Nicosia had “closed down”.
The gastroenterological and children’s dental centres of the Dr. Burhan Nalbantoglu hospital have essentially stopped operation, having been left without a doctor on staff.
Strikingly, the gastroenterological centre was forced into “closure” after the last gastroenterologist in a public health institution left the sector.
Formerly public sector doctors are fleeing to the private sector after a regulation was put into effect on Tuesday, prohibiting them from working “a second job” in the private sector.
They have been long been campaigning over bad pay and unsatisfactory working conditions.
Such physicians’ focus is on a 2011 regulation that had seen salaries of public sector newcomers being halved, creating a low-paid stratum of public servants.
The regulation in question was dubbed the “immigration law” by unions, as they claim it has led to many young Turkish Cypriots to seek a better job and future outside the island.
Consequently, public sector doctors’ union TIP-IS has accused the Turkish Cypriot ruling coalition of essentially allowing the north’s health sector to collapse.
As they claim, the coalition’s austerity policies on public health is part of their bigger plan to promote privatisation of the sector.
They are urging authorities to call off privatisation plans and immediately invest in hospital infrastructure and equipment.
“Hospitals are falling apart; shortages are increasing by the day. It is not possible for the public health institutions to offer reliable health services,” read a TIP-IS announcement this week.
They said that in order for doctors to be able to continue providing proper service, their working conditions and rights have to be respected.
TIP-IS also called on the coalition to lift the so-called “immigration law” and to change their attitude towards public health. They urged the immediate hiring of doctors to cover the vacancies created by those leaving the sector.
Meanwhile, TIP-IS has also warned that the situation in the north’s public health sector is only going to worsen, as many doctors have yet to decide whether they are to stay on or follow their colleagues to the private sector.