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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-05-30

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Thursday, May 30, 2002


  • [01] Why is heart op theatre sitting idle?
  • [02] De Soto increasingly involved in talks process
  • [03] Government decides against raising pump prices, for now
  • [04] Parents to keep children away from school in pollution protest
  • [05] Ministry almost ready, but where's the furniture?
  • [06] 'Turkey must decide where it stands'
  • [07] Food summit in Nicosia hears 'Europe can do more and better'

  • [01] Why is heart op theatre sitting idle?

    By Alex Mita

    OMBUDSWOMAN Eliana Nicolaou has given Health Minister Frixos Savvides 10 days to explain why a new operating theatre in the Nicosia General Hospital has not been put to use.

    Nicolaou was investigating allegations made by a hospital doctor that the new operating theatre, which was built in an effort to accommodate heart patients, had not been put to use, meaning thousands of pounds in medical equipment were left idle.

    According to a report seen by the Cyprus Mail, the ombudswoman's letters to the Health Ministry requesting clarification of the hospital doctor's complaints had not been answered.

    Nicolaou claims that after repeated efforts to seek an answer, the General Secretary of the Health Ministry, Simeos Matsis, informed her that due to legal issues, the matter had been sent to the Attorney-general for evaluation.

    Nicolaou told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that should the Health Minister fail to provide a satisfactory response to her questions at the end of the 10-day period, she would take relevant measures in accordance with the law.

    "The Ministry refuses to give me any information on policy grounds," she said, adding that she would not take further action against Savvides, unless he failed to explain himself at the end of the 10-day period.

    Frixos Savvides yesterday refused to comment on the issue but assured that the operating theatre would be operational in a month's time.

    "We already decided a month ago how to open and to what use we shall put the unit," he said.

    However, DIKO deputy Dr. Marios Matsakis said yesterday the Ministry had no intention of using the new operating theatre for heart surgery, but would instead use it for orthopaedic purposes.

    Matsakis slammed the Health Ministry for buying thousands of pounds of heart surgery monitoring equipment that would now be useless, branding the decision as a waste of public money.

    "In Cyprus today we operate on a certain number of people with heart problems, with most cases flying abroad," Matsakis said.

    "The Minister had pledged to increase the number of patients having heart surgery at the general hospital by building a new operating theatre."

    But Matsakis that the reason the Ministry has changed its mind and scrapped the idea is that patients - especially prominent figures - were wary of having open-heart surgery at the general hospital.

    "Have you ever heard of a prominent person having an operation at the general hospital?" he asked.

    "There are not enough beds and not enough staff to accommodate heart patients, so now the new operating theatre will be used for orthopaedic purposes."

    Matsakis said the hospital should have been put out of commission years ago and said he would never go there for an operation.

    "The Nicosia General Hospital should have been shut down years ago, and those who kept it running all these years have committed a crime against the Cyprus people."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] De Soto increasingly involved in talks process

    By Soteris Charalambous

    U.N. SPECIAL envoy Alvaro de Soto is taking a "more intense and more active" part in the direct talks to solve the Cyprus problem since the recent visit of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said after yesterday's meeting of the National Council.

    At the meeting, President Glafcos Clerides briefed the leaders of the eight parliamentary parties who make up the Council about his talks with the Greek Government last week, at which "all scenarios" from the talks were discussed.

    Papapetrou said the National Council would meet again next Thursday, when the parties were expected to "present their positions orally" on what they had heard.

    Asked if De Soto had submitted any papers at the talks between Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, Papapetrou would only state that no suggestions had been put forward, but did not specify if that excluded oral suggestions.

    The two leaders met on Tuesday to discuss security issues, as part of the ongoing series of talks that started in January.

    The Government Spokesman - who attends the talks as one of Clerides' advisers - would only comment that tomorrow's meeting would also deal with security, but said no agenda had been set for beyond that meeting, adding: "The government expresses neither optimism nor pessimism. we have a long way to go and we have many obstacles to overcome."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Government decides against raising pump prices, for now

    By George Psyllides

    THE GOVERNMENT has decided to delay new fuel hikes after a fall in the price of crude oil, Trade, Industry and Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis said yesterday.

    Speaking after a meeting with the representatives of fuel companies, Rolandis said the companies thought pump prices did not correspond to the crude oil price, adding his ministry has already briefed the House on the situation.

    "But because the price of crude has dropped in recent days to $24 dollars (per barrel) from $26, we have decided to wait for a few more days in order to have a safer view of the situation," Rolandis said.

    The minister said he understood concerns by the House and people, since it was not long ago that prices went up, but stressed that the international price was still high compared to what was being charged on the island.

    The House in April decided to increase fuel prices by 2.75 cents (VAT included) per litre, despite a government proposal for a 4.4 cent rise.

    "Due to this, the companies are worried since there is a delay in receiving the money owed by the government, which results in a lack of cash flow," Rolandis added.

    Rolandis said that the loss to the public coffer since February 1 has reached 2.5 million, and it could not be covered with current pump prices.

    The deficit is the result of a government agreement with petrol companies to subsidise their profits in return for keeping prices low.

    Rolandis said the meeting also discussed the imminent liberalisation of the island's fuel market, adding that the matter would soon be discussed at the Cabinet.

    "We also discussed the issue of moving all fuel installations from Larnaca, since all the companies would move along with the (state) refinery," he added.

    The minister said the refinery's move was expected to be completed by 2007.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Parents to keep children away from school in pollution protest

    By Alexia Saoulli

    EXASPERATED parents of a Limassol primary school have decided to take matters into their own hands and will not be sending their children to school tomorrow, a parents' association spokesman said yesterday.

    Kyriacos Valanides was referring to the Chiflikoudia primary school in Limassol that has been plagued by the presence of the Nemitsas foundry for several years now.

    The problem lies in the fact that the foundry releases chemical emissions into the atmosphere that have made children in the area physically sick.

    "This our way of showing our disgust towards those responsible for failing to act on our behalf," he said.

    Valanides described the government's attitude towards the matter as "criminal indifference," since nothing had ever been done to improve "an unbearable situation".

    "We are suffering daily," he said. "Last week the children had to have lessons wearing face masks because they could not cope with the hideous stench coming from the foundry.

    "Health Minister Frixos Savvides put the overpowering odour down to the use of the chemical dimethylene at the plant," he said. But, he pointed out; dimethylene was a chemical that posed serious health hazards to anyone who inhaled it, from irritated eyes and skin to respiratory problems.

    Despite the fact that studies had been carried out assessing the emission levels in the atmosphere and promises made to reduce them, absolutely nothing has been done to remedy the situation, he said.

    "We have showed patience, understanding and respect towards all those involved," said Valanides. "Unfortunately, the same respect has not been extended to us, and our basic human right to a healthy, clean environment has been repeatedly violated." He said that instead of getting things done, the Health Ministry was sacrificing residents' health, particularly children's health, in favour of inexcusable explanations of paperwork, extensions and time-consuming procedures.

    Valanides said the school's parents' association had decided to go on strike tomorrow, alongside other residents in the area, in an effort to show that they mean business.

    "As things stand today," he said, "we have no choice but to take drastic measures to ensure that we, and our children, have a healthy environment to work and be educated in."

    Although the children will not be going to school, the residents have planned to gather outside the school grounds for an hour, between 7.30am and 8.30am, in a peaceful demonstration.

    If the government does not respond by adopting efficient measures to help the situation by Monday, however, the school will remain closed indefinitely.

    "If a solution to the foundry is not found, parents have expressed the desire to keep their children out of that school in September as well. They would rather see their children uneducated and healthy, rather than the reverse," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Ministry almost ready, but where's the furniture?

    AFTER over 20 years in the offing, construction of the grandiose new Finance Ministry in Nicosia will be completed early next month. But no one will move in until at least the end of the year because someone has forgotten to order furniture and other equipment for the 16 million building.

    According to Politis, the decision to build the new finance ministry building was first taken during Archbishop Makarios' presidency in the '70s.

    Plans were prepared and after many changes, work eventually began around three years ago.

    The 16 million building is now close to completion, but there is no furniture or equipment to put in it.

    Finance Minister Takis Klerides is aware of the problem but said his ministry had no responsibility since tenders had not yet been awarded.

    It had initially been decided that the public works department would be making the furniture, though that was later changed and tenders were invited.

    It now remains for the tenders to be awarded and for the equipment to be made and installed.

    A government official said these procedures should have been carried out two years ago, stressing that it would be counter-productive for a 16 million building to remain unused for such a long time.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] 'Turkey must decide where it stands'

    By Soteris Charalambous

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday called on Turkey to make up its mind about its European aspirations and its position on the Cyprus problem.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou was commenting ahead of yesterday's meeting of the National Security Council in Ankara, Turkey's key decision-making forum.

    Papapetrou said: "The Turkish government should, if not now, very soon, take its final decisions with regard to its future course. Will it continue to insist on maintaining its occupation of part of Cyprus, something that will halt its course to Europe, or will it decide to relinquish its policy on Cyprus and work to serve its own European prospects?"

    Papapetrou said he was convinced the problems on the Cyprus issue would persist unless the Turkish government changed policy and adopted a more pro- European attitude.

    "Cyprus will join the European Union without a political settlement and efforts to reach a solution will continue," the spokesman added.

    Papapetrou's position was backed by the findings of a Reuters poll on Tuesday that indicated Cyprus could sign up for European Union membership as early as January 2004, despite the island's division, and that Turkey had only a remote chance of getting approval to join by the end of 2007.

    The Reuters poll surveyed analysts from financial institutions and think- tanks around Europe. It found 27 out of 44 gave Cyprus a greater than 50 per cent probability of EU accession by January 2004. Only one of those polled believed Turkey would get approval by 2007, while the possibility for Cyprus' accession to the EU by January 2005 saw the probability rise to 80 per cent.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Food summit in Nicosia hears 'Europe can do more and better'

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    THE AGRICULTURE Minister and high-ranking officials from 43 European member countries of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) met in Nicosia yesterday for three days of deliberations on the state of agriculture and food security in the region.

    President Clerides opened the 23rd session of the FAO Regional Conference for Europe, declaring, "The basic mandate of this organisation is to work in such a way as to free humanity from the problem of hunger and malnutrition."

    He acknowledged that agriculture has traditionally been one of the most important sectors of the economy of Cyprus, adding, "The importance of agriculture however, has gradually declined, both, due to the natural trend observed everywhere, as other sectors began to grow very fast, but also due to severe shortage of water, excessive land fragmentation and severe competition from tourism for scarce fertile land and labour."

    FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf emphasised the three fundamental food security issues to be addressed in Nicosia: preparations for the World Food Summit on food safety and Europe's desertification problems.

    He reminded the conference delegates of the 800 million people in the world suffering from malnutrition and reaffirmed the target set by the World Food Summit 1996 of reducing the number of hungry people to less than half by 2015.

    Dr Diouf acknowledged European support against world hunger but maintained, "Europe could do better and more: crop and livestock farmers and fishermen in the less advanced countries must be helped by investment and technology transfer."

    The Director-General also emphasised the number of food-safety related problems, which have placed consumer health in jeopardy recently, and hampered trade both within the region and with other regions of the world.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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