We had to take hard measures during the pandemic but the results justified us said President Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday evening, during an event in Larnaka to honour the health professionals for all their efforts and dedication during the health crisis we were faced with.
He said that decisions were made in order to keep the country's economy in solid foundations, to support businesses in general, workers, but above all people and described all health professionals as heroes of the front line. President Anastasiades said that doctors, nurses, paramedical staff and scientific advisors collaborated with the state in order to deliver the best possible results.
The President referred to the former Minister of Health Constantinos Ioannou and current Minister Michalis Hadjipantela and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry and all health professionals who showed a high sense of responsibility, zeal and professionalism in dealing with the health crisis.
In his speech the President spoke of the national health system (GeSY) which responded effectively during the pandemic and of the government’s policies to strengthen the work of the health professionals, but also to support those affected by the Covid crisis. He said that the infrastructure of the public hospitals was reinforced adding that free hospitalisation, tests and vaccines were made available to everyone.
He said that during the crisis 220,000 people and 28,000 businesses benefited when measures were taken, at a cost that exceeded 3 billion euro.
President Anastasiades welcomed the establishment of a WHO regional office in Cyprus with responsibility for infectious diseases which will cover the countries of the Mediterranean and South-Eastern Europe, comprising by Cypriot experts, but also by an external expert of the Organization.
In his address Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela said that the Covid pandemic period was a historic moment during which our endurance was tested and a period that changed our lives and our way of thinking. He said that we gave the battle and had losses, sacrifices but also victories.
He expressed the state’s gratitude to all health professionals who showed exceptional professionalism during the crisis.
Regional Director of WHO Hans Kluge thanked President Anastasiades, Health Minister and the Cabinet as a whole, for their outstanding support in making the establishment of a WHO Country Office in Cyprus possible.
Kluge said that health and care professionals are what makes a health system, adding that they are the backbone, the eyes, the ears, the ones that deliver health. He said that every single one of the 53 member states of WHO in this Region, including Cyprus, owes huge gratitude to their health and care workers and that during the COVID-19 pandemic, health and care workers were the main defence, striving to provide care, often at great personal risk, putting their very own lives on the line.
Kluge added that the pandemic exposed weaknesses in our health systems, no matter which country adding that COVID-19 and its extensive impact underscored how integral this very workforce is to our societies and made clear that health system recovery and future preparedness, is doomed to fail if we don’t strengthen the workforce.
He said that Cyprus’ health workforce is strong, but like elsewhere, deserves better support. He noted that despite representing the largest proportion of the health workforce, all too often, the reality of nurses is education that isn’t fit-for-purpose, unacceptable working conditions, limited mental health support, scant opportunities for leadership positions or for shaping policy.
“In Cyprus, nurses and midwives account for almost 44 percent of the health workforce. There is a gendered aspect here; some 80 percent of the Cypriot nursing workforce are women. In 2019, Cyprus produced 122 nursing graduates, 104 pharmacists and 45 doctors - while also recruiting 309 foreign doctors, he pointed out.
"Too many doctors soon reaching retirement age and too few new graduates, leads to increased foreign recruitment. Among ways of countering that, is to free up resources and invest in nurses and midwives, giving them a greater role to provide services they are well equipped for”, Kluge said.
He added that investing in retention is the right thing to do because it costs more to train new health workers than to train those already in the profession. He also said that now is the time to address workforce shortages, training, retention, digitization and make our systems fit for purpose, something Cyprus is already doing through healthcare reforms such as addressing out of pocket cost of healthcare and working towards universal health coverage.
During the event Linos Hadjihannas, a Pathologist and Infectious Disease Specialist referred to the actions taken to deal with the coronavirus pandemic in Cyprus.
Maria Christodoulou, a nurse in the ICU of Nicosia General Hospital shared the moments of difficulty and struggle during the crisis, saying that she went through shocking experiences.
Aglaia Gerasimou, a patient both at the Nicosia General Hospital and Famagusta Reference Hospital shared her experience. She was intubated for 18 days and said that when she opened her eyes all she wanted was a hug. She said that the professionalism of the health professionals kept her alive.
During the event the President of the Republic presented an honorary plaque to the Permanent Secretary of the Health Ministry, the Medical Services and Public Health Services, the Pharmaceutical Services, the Subsidized Patients Sector of the Ministry of Health, the Epidemiological Surveillance and Tracking Unit of the Ministry and to the Chairman of the Board and the General Executive Director of OKYpY .
Honorary plaques were also presented by the President of the Parliament to the Minister of Health and the WHO Regional Director.
A total of 300 plaques were also given to health professionals and other institutions, including public hospitals, while in the following days the Minister of Health will tour hospitals to present honorary diplomas to approximately 4,000 people.