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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-07-22
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From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Wednesday, July 22, 1998
 Ministry report plays down walk-out by nursesBy Charlie Charalambous
AN INVESTIGATION into the Makarios Hospital fiasco blames both nurses and a senior doctor who criticised them for leaving an operating theatre to take a lunch-break, causing five children to miss surgery. One of the five had already been sedated for an operation.
Top paediatric surgeon Eleni Theocharous and the nurses involved are accused of breaches of discipline in the much-awaited Health Ministry report, published yesterday.
The nurses hailed the report as a complete vindication of their walk-out. Dr Theocharous is unlikely to be similarly upbeat.
However, Health Minister Christos Solomis painstakingly sought to spread the blame in harmless doses, understanding that feelings are running high at the hospital since nurses walked out on five children needing surgery two weeks ago.
"We are hot-blooded Greeks and sometimes things get out of hand. Ms Theocharous wanted to help those children but no one can say our nurses are not professional and just spend their time looking at their watches," Solomis said after reading out the report at a press conference in Nicosia.
The report rebuked Theocharous for failing to estimate the possibility of emergency cases when scheduling her nine routine surgeries and said her behaviour towards union chiefs was inappropriate.
"The way Dr Theocharous reacted to the nurses' stance was not at all helpful and her use of language and turn of phrase regarding union officials was improper," said the report.
The minister also pointed out that the surgeon could face disciplinary action for by-passing the normal channels when blowing the whistle on the nurses to the media.
Precisely what the outraged Theocharous said to her nurses was not spelled out, but Solomis gave some indication when he said:
"You can't go around saying to civil servants, 'I pay your wages', because people are bound to react to that."
Solomis believes the whole sorry affair was due to "just bad communication."
Nurses had no right to walk out of scheduled surgery claiming their shift was up and leave one of the children in a sedated condition, the report said.
"The nature of the health service imposes obligations beyond the routine because the interests of patients is over and above the interests and rights of professional carers," said Solomis.
A statement by the nurses in response to the report said they disagreed with suggestions that they had violated the industrial labour code.
Since the incident at the island's top children's hospital, nurses have branded Theocharous persona non grata and have threatened a work-to-rule.
Although the report did have some harsh words for the nurses -- although not as damning as the Ombudsman's report last week -- Solomis was in a temperate mood.
"There were breaches of discipline, but recrimination is not our business in this unfortunate incident."
After blaming the long hot summer, the volatile Cypriot character and the stresses and strains of working at state hospitals, Solomis was finally pressed on what he was going to do next.
"My obligation is to apply the law. What shape the disciplinary action will take, I can't say."
But the minister assured the press that "if it's Dr Theocharous or the nurses, disciplinary measures will be taken."
Trying to restore the tarnished image of the health service, Solomis stressed that Cyprus had one the highest ratios of doctors (one for every 450 people) and nurses (one for every 220 people) per person anywhere in the world.
 Cassoulides dismisses talk of new ideasSIR DAVID Hannay, the EU's and Britain's envoy for Cyprus, has brought no new ideas for breaking the settlement talks deadlock, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said yesterday.
Hannay, who arrived for a three-day official visit on Monday, discussed the stalemate in bicommunal talks, Cyprus's EU accession bid and security issues over breakfast with President Clerides yesterday.
But Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides - who attended the Presidential Palace breakfast and also had a separate meeting with Hannay later in the day - said he had heard nothing new.
"I do not see anything new coming out of this meeting," he said after his talks with Hannay at the Foreign Ministry.
Cassoulides said he had reiterated to Hannay that the government was ready to resume bicommunal talks "at any time", that Clerides's offer for Turkish Cypriots to join the government EU accession talks team still stood and that Cyprus would avoid any actions that might increase tension.
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash - who has refused to see Hannay - is declining to return to UN-led settlement negotiations unless the 'TRNC' is granted international recognition.
Speaking after his meeting with Clerides, Hannay gave nothing away about what had been discussed.
"Our talks with the President covered a whole range of issues," he said. The envoy said topics covered had included ways of breaking the current stalemate in UN-led settlement talks, how to achieve Turkish Cypriot participation in Cyprus's EU accession process and ways of reducing tension on the island.
"We covered all aspects of these problems and (our discussions) were very useful," Hannay said.
Hannay crossed to the north later in the day, not to talk to Denktash, but to deliver a lecture to a Turkish Cypriot audience. The Turkish Cypriot leader has declared Hannay persona non grata for his refusal to recognise his breakaway state and has refused to meet him.
In his speech, Hannay urged the Turkish side to abandon its demand for recognition of the 'TRNC' as a precondition for resumption of talks. "It is the most normal thing in the world for there to be unresolved differences about the status of parties in such negotiations," Hannay said.
"In many other cases, it has been possible to address, and in some cases resolve, major differences and disputes without first having an agreement as to the status of the parties," he said.
He said it was impossible to have equal status as a precondition for negotiations when this was something that should be a result of negotiations.
 Deficit warning from EU commissionerBy Andy Georgiades
CYPRUS must reduce its fiscal deficit in order to meet the criteria for Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the European Union Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Padraig Flynn, told a press conference in Nicosia yesterday.
But despite the problem of the deficit, Flynn said he was pleased with how the EU harmonisation process was coming along.
"A lot has been done and achieved, and I foresee that the social acquis will pose no problem in the negotiation," Flynn said.
The commissioner did say that Cyprus could improve in its steps to provide for an ageing population that would drain social insurance funds in the future.
He added that Cyprus "must plan" for 10 or 15 years down the road, when more people would be leaving than entering the labour force -- a situation that many EU member states are already facing.
During the press conference, Flynn also made special mention of a promise made by President Glafcos Clerides to reduce the deficit to three per cent of GDP by the year 2000 in compliance with the Maastricht criteria.
Clerides has also promised, as a first step, to reduce the deficit from six per cent to five per cent by 1999.
There have been fears that unless certain tax reforms are initiated, the deficit could rise to seven per cent of GDP by the end of this year.
The Minister of Labour, Andreas Moushiouttas, who also attended the press conference, said Flynn's visit was important because "it signifies that Europe is interested in Cyprus and it also shows his own personal interest in helping us move towards full EU membership."
Flynn also met with George Vassiliou, the head of Cyprus' EU negotiating team.
In May, Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou proposed a biting tax package to the House especially aimed to reduce the deficit.
He wanted Value Added Tax (VAT), currently standing at eight per cent, to be raised to 12 per cent, and for the government to tax goods and services currently exempt of VAT at five per cent.
Part of the package was thrown out, but the rest is scheduled for review in October.
Most EU member states have a VAT rate of between 15 and 20 per cent.
"An adjustment will be necessary here as well, but it cannot be undertaken overnight," Flynn said.
 First boat people to go home todayBy Martin Hellicar
MOST of the 109 Arabs and Africans rescued from a trawler found drifting off Cyprus on June 30 are to be sent home, police confirmed yesterday.
And 11 Syrians among the boat people are to fly back to their country today, the Syrian embassy in Nicosia said.
The majority of the immigrants, who have been staying at a Limassol hotel under police guard since their rescue, are seeking asylum in Cyprus.
According to local press reports, Limassol Police chief Miltiades Neocleous said asylum could not be granted to all the passengers. Police spokesman Glafcos Xenos confirmed this yesterday.
The government had promised to treat the plight of the boat people - from 14 countries including Iraq, Syria, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Rwanda and Congo - as a humanitarian issue and to grant asylum to those facing persecution in their homelands. Earlier this month, UNHCR officials arrived in Cyprus to help establish who among those rescued were genuine asylum-seekers.
This screening process continues, but police now seem decided to repatriate or, if necessary, deport most of the boat people.
Problems arise where the identities of boat people are unknown, as the Lebanese chargé d'affaires of the Lebanese embassy in Nicosia, Kalil El- Habre confirmed yesterday.
"We were not officially notified that there were any Lebanese on the boat. But we have received calls from people at the (Limassol) hotel saying they were Lebanese, but they don't have any travel or identification documents," El-Habre said yesterday. "You cannot repatriate or even deport people without such documents," he said.
A consular official at the Syrian embassy, Wajih Ibrahim, said the "procedure" for the return of the 11 Syrians among the boat people had been "finalised". He said the Syrian passengers were returning home willingly. "They want to go back and they will be going back tomorrow."
Ibrahim said the Syrian embassy would foot the bill for their flights home.
Since their rescue, the 109 passengers have been staying at the £25-a-night Pefkos hotel in Limassol at government expense. The total cost to the state is estimated at over £200,000 and rising.
The boat people have been complaining of the restrictive regime imposed by police at their hotel. Six of them escaped from the hotel last week. Five of them later returned but one was still at large yesterday.
The passengers, including eight children, were half-starved and suffering from severe dehydration when a Ukrainian cargo vessel found them aboard the Syrian-flagged Rida Allah. Crammed on the deck of the tiny fishing boat, they had been drifting for 10 days after the vessel developed engine trouble two days after leaving the lebanese port of Tripoli on June 18.
Police said two passengers died of thirst on the fishing boat and had been thrown overboard by the time the vessel was found and towed to Limassol.
The Syrian captain of the ship, 31-year-old Mohammed Mustafa, has been charged with causing death by negligence and carrying passengers on an unsuitable vessel. Passengers claim they paid Mustafa hundreds of dollars each for passage to Greece and Italy.
 Russian Church calls Limassol bishop to accountTHE RUSSIAN Church has now apparently added its voice to complaints about Limassol Bishop Chrysanthos.
Reports said yesterday the Russian Church was claiming that $700,000 had been transferred to the Limassol bishopric for the construction of a Russian church in Limassol. The plans were in fact laid out, but building never actually began.
The matter was brought to the attention of President Glafcos Clerides by the head of the Russian Church, Patriarch Alexei, during the president's recent visit to Russia.
On his return, Clerides reportedly instructed Justice Minister Nicos Koshis to investigate the matter. Koshis met with Archbishop Chrysostomos on Monday and asked for his help in the matter.
As these latest allegations surface, the Limassol bishop was yesterday still abroad for medical tests, according to his lawyer. Last week Attorney- general Alekos Markides said a warrant for the bishop's arrest would be issued if Chrysanthos failed to return soon.
Markides is not alone in waiting for the bishop's return. Scotland Yard detectives arrived on the island late on Monday night to question Chrysanthos on a fraud case involving the transfer of $3.7 million to a Yugoslav offshore bank on the island.
Yesterday, while they waited, the detectives met with officers at Cyprus police headquarters to review the testimonies of three other people arrested in Britain in connection with the same case.
 Grape growers block road in protestPISSOURI grape growers blocked the Paphos to Limassol road for an hour yesterday in an attempt to raise public and government awareness of their economic plight.
At 8am, the growers dumped truckloads of grapes on the tarmac, blocking the road outside the Ranzo restaurant in Pissouri.
The disturbance lasted for an hour until police stepped in to clear the road.
The producers have threatened to escalate their action tomorrow if their demands are not taken seriously.
The grape growers decided to act after a meeting on Monday afternoon between leaders of all agricultural organisations. They are protesting against government policy which, they claim, is wrecking grape production on the island.
The growers complain that grapes judged unfit for wine-making are not being put on the market as fruit, and claim that the 17 cent per kilo ceiling price set for table grapes is "insulting", and insufficient even to cover production costs.
The producers fear current policies will lead to the annihilation of their livelihood, the loss of income and traditional markets, and the closing off of export outlets.
Agricultural organisations are demanding a rise in subsides on table grapes to £50 pounds per ton. In addition, they want the government to inject cash into the declining industry, draw up a long term policy on table grapes and do more to promote exports.
 Top state officials meet to discuss defence levyPRESIDENT Clerides yesterday chaired an extraordinary meeting of the country's political and military leadership to discuss a controversial bill for an increase in the defence levy.
The meeting was agreed earlier this month during the last summer session of the House plenum, after long hours of back-room wrangling failed to secure party unanimity for approval the bill, pending since 1996. Akel and the United Democrats are opposed to the bill - which would hike contributions to the defence fund from the current three to four per cent - and deputies were loathe to put such a contentious matter to the vote in the absence of unanimity.
Party leaders, members of the House Defence committee, Ministers, Attorney- general Alecos Markides, National Guard chief Dimitris Dimou and the President all refrained from making statements on leaving yesterday's three- hour meeting at the Presidential palace.
Deputies are to interrupt their summer break for an extraordinary House plenum session on August 5 solely for consideration of the bill.
 Consumer dismay at new sales lawBy Andy Georgiades
THE CYPRUS Consumers' Association expressed its "dissatisfaction" with the government's decision to pass a law regulating the summer sales period in a written statement issued yesterday.
Last November, a law forbidding the advertising of sales except for certain periods was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The new law, passed on July 2, bypasses the issue of advertising, but bans sales themselves outside the specified periods.
"We were surprised," the vice-chairman of the Cyprus Consumers' Association, Kikis Kyriakou, told the Cyprus Mail. "We expected that we would be invited by the government and the parliamentary committee studying the law to state our views."
The organisation is against any law governing periods in which sales can take place because its members believe the interests of the consumers are harmed.
When the sales periods were liberalised, Kyriakou said consumers benefited because sales began earlier and lasted longer, discounts were applied to a greater number of products, and competition increased.
He blamed the new law on pressure mounted by Povek, an organised group of small and medium shopkeepers. The group argued that, compared to the larger stores, they could not allocate enough money for advertising to let their customers know when a sale would take place.
Kyriakou sympathised with Povek's concern, but said it was not a "good enough reason" for the law to exist "and for consumers to be penalised."
He added the Cyprus Consumers' Association did believe the smaller shops were important and that if they disappeared, oligopolies would form, and these were "never good for the consumer."
At the beginning of this year, Kyriakou said the association conducted a telephone survey of 100 people, and that more than 60 per cent were in favour of liberalised sales.
The new law states that summer sales should start on the first Monday of August and run through to the last Saturday of the month. But because sales had already begun before the law was passed, this year's period was extended to begin on July 17.
 Multiple heat waves are here to stayBy Andy Georgiades
MULTIPLE heat waves are normal from time to time, and according to the meteorological services department, this year is one of those times.
The weather forecast shows temperatures will remain five to six degrees Celsius above normal for at least the next three days, according to Cleanthis Philaniotis, director of meteorological services.
Thermometers will soar above 40 degrees Celsius inland and hover around 34 degrees Celsius along the coast.
"The word 'normal' may be confusing," Philaniotis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday. "These things happen in Cyprus - not every year - they may happen every 10 years."
Philaniotis said some heat waves last longer than others, and Cyprus has been experiencing them for as long as records have been kept.
In August 1956 the temperature peaked at 44.4 degrees Celsius and in July 1973 the temperature reached 44.2 degrees Celsius, cited the director.
The only thing about heat waves that can be predicted is that, at some point, they will happen, he said. This year, July happens to be extremely hot in Cyprus.
But he was quick to point out that the heat could just as easily occur in June or September.
"In 100 years, we'll get at least 10 cases of long-lasting heat waves," he said.
 Drowned English tourist was not drunkENGLISH Tourist Darren Lawley, found dead in an Ayia Napa swimming pool on Monday morning, died of asphyxiation due to drowning, State pathologist Eleni Antoniou said yesterday.
Police had suspected that the 21-year-old from Telford, Shropshire, had been drinking before taking a swim at around 2.30 am on Monday.
"There were no signs that this man had been drinking, but it is clear he had eaten well before he went swimming and this could have caused him to feel sick or to choke," Antoniou said after carrying out an autopsy yesterday.
She added: "it was clearly asphyxiation due to drowning."
Ayia Napa police said that Lawley had become unconscious during his swim and the victim was dragged out from the bottom of the pool by his friends.
The British High Commission in Nicosia have been in contact with the victim's family in England and arrangements are being made to fly the body home.
 Larnaca port protestTHE LARNACA stevedores shut down their port for two hours yesterday morning in order to send a message to the government: We want work.
Using huge machines to block the entrance of the port, the stevedores barred anyone from embarking or disembarking their vessels between 8 and 10am.
Pantelis Alambritis, a spokesman for the stevedores, said the demonstration was a warning action.
No incidents were reported as police watched the peaceful demonstration.
The stevedores feel they are being treated unfairly because the dockers, who have a different status, have been receiving unemployment benefits for the last six months.
Because the port is at a virtual standstill, millions of pounds worth of machinery have remained idle at huge cost to the workers and their families.
Alambritis said the government must initiate a plan for the harbour and "stop with the rhetoric, studies and empty promises".
If the delays continue, the stevedores will have no choice but to take further measures, Alambritis said.
 Ministry deplores attack on doctorTHE HEALTH Ministry yesterday condemned the recent assault on a medic at Limassol Hospital's casualty section.
In the announcement, the ministry said that such force was "unacceptable", adding that doctors working in casualty were under considerable stress. According to the ministry, a doctor in First Aid treats an average of 8,000 cases every year. Therefore, it adds, doctors should be appreciated and not assaulted.
The Health Ministry also announced that all cases of assault against doctors would henceforth be reported to the police.
 Three held over Limassol assaultTHREE men were arrested yesterday in connection with a Monday assault on a Limassol man.
Valentinos Costa Tsangarides, alias 'Vakis', was attacked when he disturbed burglars on returning to his Amathounda flat at 2 am on Monday.
Tsangarides was allegedly assulted by three men, one of whom struck him on the head with what looked like a gun. The assailant then demanded money and jewellery, while a second man allegedly grabbed Tsangarides by the neck and tried to remove the watch he was wearing.
The burglars ran when their victim called for help.
Tsangarides was taken to Limassol general hospital's casualty unit for treatment to his injuries and was released after first aid.
Limassol police made the arrests yesterday on the basis of Tsangarides' description of his attackers and their vehicle. They are still searching for another suspect.
 Thieves take $13,000BURGLARS stole $13,000 in cash and thousands more in jewellery from a Russian businessman in Larnaca yesterday.
The theft occurred some time in the afternoon before 7pm, police said late last night.
The unnamed businessman works with a company in Cyprus.
Larnaca police are investigating the theft.
 UK tourist jailed for assaultBy Charlie Charalambous
AN ENGLISH tourist has been sentenced to six months in prison for seriously injuring a Danish holidaymaker during a drunken brawl in Ayia Napa earlier this month.
A police statement yesterday said Neil Donovan, 21, from Kent, was sentenced by a Larnaca court on Monday after pleading guilty to causing serious bodily harm.
Donovan was arrested on July 15 after attacking Dane Kenneth Schov, 21, with a beer bottle after a fight broke out at an Ayia Napa hotel bar.
Police said Donovan was with a group of friends who started taunting and throwing bottles at the Dane.
"When the Danish tourist asked them to stop, Donovan hit him over the head with a broken beer bottle," a Famagusta police spokesman told the Cyprus Mail.
Donovan was very drunk at the time, the spokesman added.
Schov had to be taken to hospital, where he received several stitches to a head wound.
A British High Commission official yesterday visited Donovan in prison.
"His father is also over here and has contacted us for a list of lawyers because his son wants to contest the decision," said Commission spokesman Peter Boxer.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998
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