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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-10-18

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, October 18, 2002


  • [01] Limassol surgeons operate on wrong knee
  • [02] Denktash to be discharged on Sunday
  • [03] De Soto says there is just enough time for a settlement
  • [04] Green light for fuel price liberalisation
  • [05] Gay and transsexual rights up for review?
  • [06] Serbian Justice Minister in Cyprus in search of 'missing millions'
  • [07] Heart and lungs save lives in Austria
  • [08] Pittokopitis shows gross incompetence in latest co-op scandall

  • [01] Limassol surgeons operate on wrong knee

    By Alexia Saoulli

    SURGEONS at Limassol General Hospital opened up the wrong leg in an operation on a 13-year-old boy, in a case that doctors yesterday described as a clear case of medical negligence.

    The boy was admitted to hospital around 10 days ago to surgically repair a condition in his right knee known as osteochondritis, which is a cartilage defect. But, for some reason, once inside the operating theatre, surgeons cut open his left instead of his right knee. Realising their error, doctors stitched up the healthy knee and carried out the operation as planned on his right knee. When the surgery was completed, one of the doctors took the boy's parents aside and told them of their mistake, reports said yesterday.

    Such a mistake should never have happened and was clearly a medical error, Limassol orthopaedist Dr. Simos Ioannou said yesterday. Although any damage to the healthy knee was minimal, any surgical procedure involving an open wound ran the risk of infection, he told the Cyprus Mail.

    "If all they did was open up his left knee, find out that there was no problem and then stitched it up to carry on with the operation on his right knee, all he will be left with is a cosmetic scar of where the incision took place," he said. "There is a danger of infection when you open up any part of the body, let alone both knees, but it is minimal."

    The problem would be during his recovery. Instead of being able to hobble around using crutches and supporting his weight on his 'good' leg as planned, the 13-year-old would be bedridden for a period of 10 to 15 days until both his knees were healed, he said.

    "Because both his legs have been stitched up, he needs to give them time to heal, which means he'll not be able to walk around for a while. This would not have been necessary if the operation had gone ahead as it was supposed to."

    Ioannou added this was clearly a medical error. "The surgeon is to blame. He should have looked at the x-ray of the knee before proceeding with the operation. Even if, hypothetically, the duty nurse had prepared the wrong knee for surgery and he assumed it was that knee that needed the operation, he should still have double-checked and not relied on medical charts or reports for confirmation."

    DIKO deputy Marios Matsakis also said the mistake was inexcusable.

    "I have called for an investigation into the matter, but Limassol's head doctor has still not got back to me. But if these reports are true, then this is a serious case of medical negligence," he said. "In my opinion, as a forensic pathologist, there is no defence for the doctor who was responsible for this mistake." Errors like this have occurred abroad before, but Matsakis maintained it was a surgeon's duty to verify that the part of the body he was about to operate on, was in fact the right part.

    Although there would be no permanent physical damage inflicted on the boy, how the doctors and his parents explained the mistake to him would determine to what extent he would be psychologically damaged by the ordeal, said Nicosia child psychiatrist Dr. Julietta Kalli-Laouri.

    "Any operation affects a child, let alone two procedures instead of one," she said. "However, depending on how the mistake is explained to him, what information he's given and how his parents proceed from this point on, will be crucial in determining what effect this will have on his state of mind."

    Laouri said the doctors owed it to the boy to explain what had happened. "They should be the first ones to give him a detailed account of what went wrong and to give him an apology, since they were the ones that made the mistake to begin with. His parents should then sit down and talk to him as well," she said. Laouri explained that if the medical experts and parents worked together to explain the event to the boy, it would minimise any trauma he might have experienced and help build up his trust in them.

    "As far as any legal repercussions are concerned, again that will depend on how the parents handle it and to what degree the boy is dragged into things, " she said.

    Health Minister Frixos Savvides told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that no official complaint had been made and so an "official investigation into the matter" could not be carried out.

    "As far as I know, the parents have forgiven the doctor for his mistake and so we can't officially act on the information," he said. "However, the Ministry's Medical Service is carrying out its own enquiry into the matter, so as to ensure a repeat performance is avoided in future."

    Pancyprian Medical Association Head, Dr. Antonis Vassiliou, said he had not been briefed about the incident and would not comment until he had investigated it personally.

    Limassol Hospital head Dr. Andreas Petevis was yesterday unavailable for comment. None of the orthopaedic surgeons at the hospital were available for comment.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Denktash to be discharged on Sunday

    TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash will be discharged from New York's Presbyterian Hospital this Sunday, reports said yesterday.

    According to the Cyprus News Agency, Denktash's cardiovascular surgeon, Mehmet Oz, said it would be advisable for his patient's recovery if he remained in hospital a while longer. However, he said that if Denktash wanted to discharge himself he could.

    The real reason for the delay was because the Turkish Cypriot leader's wound had not yet closed, claimed Turkish sources. This was not an uncommon phenomenon for overweight patients, they said.

    Turkish Cypriot newspaper Yeni Duzen said Denktash's extended hospital stay was due to lung complications and dyspnea, preventing him from walking and linked his son's visit to New York with the severity of his health condition.

    But Denktash' son Serdar said the only reason his father had not yet left hospital was so that "he won't be disturbed by visits". Serdar insisted Denktash's health was improving on a daily basis and that he would be back in Cyprus in three weeks' time.

    Turkish Cypriot 'deputy prime minister' Erguin Olgun also said Denktash was healthy enough to leave hospital whenever he wished. He added that the Turkish Cypriot leader would be stopping off in Turkey first, before returning to Cyprus. Asked where the Cyprus problem stood at this time, Olgun said: "His doctors have forbidden him from dealing with official duties for eight weeks."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] De Soto says there is just enough time for a settlement

    U.N. SPECIAL Envoy Alvaro de Soto said yesterday he believed there was little time left for a solution, but just enough to reach a political settlement by December.

    Speaking to reporters on his return from Ankara, De Soto said he had had useful and lengthy meetings and would be going to Athens early next week for consultations with Greek government officials.

    He expressed hope that the work of two ad hoc technical committees set up for the talks could begin very soon.

    The committees were agreed during meetings with UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan in New York earlier this month with President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    "I had a lengthy and useful meeting in Ankara and I will be going to Athens early next week," De Soto told the press.

    He said he had been in touch with Denktash's staff in New York - where he is recovering from heart surgery - and hoped the work of the committees could begin really soon.

    "The work continues, there is a lot to be done, there is little time left, but there is just enough time so that a settlement can be pulled up," he said.

    Asked if he thought there would be a settlement before December, De Soto replied, "very soon, I hope, yes".

    Invited to say if the Secretary-general intended to present the two sides with a solution plan, he said he could not anticipate what the Secretary- general would do next.

    "I am continuing consultations with Greece and Turkey and the Secretary- general is counting on the continued support for this effort," he said.

    Referring to Denktash's state of health following open heart surgery, De Soto said the Turkish Cypriot leader was recovering quite well and that the prognosis was a good one.

    "There may be slight complications but I understand they are peripheral," he said.

    De Soto met with Clerides at the airport from where the President was leaving for Greece for talks with the leadership there.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Green light for fuel price liberalisation

    THE CABINET had given the green light for the liberalisation of petrol and diesel prices as of next year.

    The changes will be implemented in two phases, the first from January 1, 2003 and the second from July 1, 2003. Complete liberalisation will come into effect from October 1, 2003.

    Ministers also decided that for the price of kerosene, consumers would be charged only four cents per litre, no matter how much the tax is. The current tax is seven cents and when the tax rises to 14 cents, then the 10 cents will be returned to the consumer in a manner the Ministry of Commerce will decide.

    According to an EU directive, the government may impose a tax of one per cent on heating oil. However, there are not enough storage tanks that can be used to store heating oil separately from other diesel products and the suggestion was made for the introduction of a system in which consumers would receive a refund at the end of the period.

    Also under the decision, farmers will not pay any tax or VAT on their diesel. They will be able to buy coloured diesel subsidised by the government at any petrol station after an agreement between the Ministry and petrol station owners that will see coloured diesel stored in tanks that up to now were used to store kerosene, while other arrangements are being discussed to find out where kerosene is going to be stored. Under the new rates, farmers will be able to buy their diesel at a little over half its selling price and will be allowed to claim the VAT.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Gay and transsexual rights up for review?

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    THE HOUSE Legal Affairs Committee yesterday opened its doors to the issue of transsexuals and homosexuality, as members of the committee acknowledged that the time could soon come when the former would have to be legally recognised and the latter extended rights of marriage.

    The committee studied a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which concluded that persons who change their sex, either from male to female or vice-versa, are accorded full rights available, including the right to marriage.

    Acting committee chairman, Jonas Nicolaou maintained that the EU had not given instruction for a change in Cypriot law, putting Cyprus under no obligation to do so, but given the recent decision, the ECHR position must sooner or later be adopted. He added that the possibility was always there for a citizen of the Republic to seek recourse against the state at the ECHR.

    AKEL Deputy Akis Agapiou said that studies on the subject would be undertaken within the framework of the moral standards that prevail in Cyprus. He highlighted that it was not a matter for the Church, which was run by its own principles and rules. He did not rule out the possibility that Cyprus would be called upon at some point through the EU acquis communautaire to recognise the marriage of homosexuals.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Serbian Justice Minister in Cyprus in search of 'missing millions'

    SERBIAN Justice Minister Vladan Batic has just left Cyprus after a short low-key visit to discuss the whereabouts of millions belonging to the Yugoslav state.

    A spokesman for the Yugoslav embassy in Nicosia said yesterday that Batic had come to Cyprus to discuss procedures in relation to investigations into Slobadan Milosevic's cash deposits into offshore companies in Cyprus.

    However, reports from the Serbian independent news agency FoNet said Batic had come to Cyprus for meetings with his Cypriot counterpart Alecos Shambos to resolve "the fate of our money which people close to the previous regime deposited in banks in Cyprus".

    "From the Cyprus Minister of Justice I have requested the return of our money and the removing of the veil of mystery that surrounds it," Batic was quoted as saying. The Serbian Minister said that he had initiated this discussion with the aim of solving the 'mystery', given that, as "those who were in charge of dealing with this issue had not done a thing", or did not want to do it, a statement from his office said.

    During his stay in Cyprus, Batic also met Central Bank governor Christodoulos Christodoulou, who said he was ready to go to Belgrade and help in clearing up the issue. He also said he was ready to accept a team of experts from Serbia to visit Cyprus for the same purpose.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Heart and lungs save lives in Austria

    By Alexia Saoulli

    A HEART and a pair of lungs from a Cypriot man were donated to a team of European doctors, saving the lives of transplant patients in Austria, the head of Nicosia's Paraskevaidion Surgical and Transplant Foundation said yesterday.

    Dr.George Kyriakides said the family of a 54-year-old clinically dead man donated his organs to the foundation on Tuesday. That same night, five Austrian doctors flew into Cyprus and were immediately escorted by police to pick up his heart and lungs. The deceased's kidneys were transplanted to two Cypriot patients, said Kyriakides. But his liver and his eyes' corneas were not healthy enough to be harvested.

    "I do not think we should focus on what we could not harvest from the patient. Instead, what is important is what organs were able to be used for transplantation, thus saving peoples' lives," he said.

    Kyriakides said the Paraskevaidion Foundation frequently co-operated with other transplant centres abroad.

    "We have donated organs that we cannot use in Cyprus to the United Kingdom, Greece and Israel, as well as Austria," he said.

    In Cyprus only kidney transplants can be carried out. No other transplant service is yet available on the island, which was why organs were donated to other countries, he said.

    "We do not have a heart transplant service, for instance, because our population is very small," said Kyriakides. "In other words, we do not expect every other Cypriot to need a heart transplant, which would justify the existence of such a centre." This was why the island also lacked a liver or lung transplant service.

    "The United Kingdom has four liver centres, for example, but they also have a population of around 60 million and so need them. In Cyprus, we rarely have patients looking for a similar organ and so I would not suggest we need such a service just yet."

    But by donating organs to Austria, they in turn would offer heart transplant services to Cypriots.

    "They have the expertise to carry out heart transplants and so will now carry out the procedure on Cypriots using organ donations from their own donor list or ours," he said.

    Seven months ago, the foundation had a waiting list for organs a mile long, he said. One hundred and twenty patients were waiting for kidneys, 10 for livers and a further 10 were waiting for hearts. The problem at that time was they had not had a cadaver organ donor for over a year.

    "The situation is much better than it was," he said. "We've already had seven donors this year, which is the equivalent to 14 kidneys."

    But although circumstances were not as dire as they had been in March, the length of the waiting list had not changed much, he said.

    "We may have saved 14 patients, but in that time we've also added new ones to the list. In other words it never really decreases much."

    Kyriakides said that in order to see a drastic drop in the donor waiting list, the foundation would need at least 15 donors a year. But the average donor rate per year was only eight because of the lack of candidates, he said.

    Only brain dead patients, being kept alive on an artificial respirator, are eligible for transplant purposes, because their vital organs are being supplied with enough oxygen to sustain them, he said. That was why car accident victims that were killed instantly were of no use for transplant purposes; without oxygen flow their organs died within minutes too.

    Kyriakides added the Foundation accepted any viable organ, including eyes, but that it mainly needed kidneys, livers and hearts.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Pittokopitis shows gross incompetence in latest co-op scandall

    WHEN a couple of years ago it was reported that Diko deputy Nikos Pittokopitis had secured an unauthorised ,50,000 loan from the Paphos Co-op Bank of which he was chairman, he maintained that he had done nothing wrong. Yet it was crystal clear that he had abused his position as chairman and as a member of the legislature for personal benefit. Had he done nothing wrong he would not have paid the loan back in full to the co-op while an investigation was being conducted but would have continued with his monthly loan repayments, which is the normal practice.

    He did not consider it necessary to step down as chairman, protesting his innocence from the moment that his transgression was reported. In a rather perverse way he was right -- he had simply abused his position for personal gain, which is considered perfectly acceptable behaviour in Cyprus. It is standard practice for most people in positions of authority to use the power they have to benefit themselves, their families and friends.

    The view, that 'if you have power you might as well use it for your benefit', is deeply-rooted in the national conscience, adopted by deputies, ministers, senior state officials, chairmen of state organisations and senior-ranking police officers. Under the circumstances, Pittokopitis had done nothing out of the ordinary, his only real mistake being that he had been caught. Then again, many have been caught but very few indeed have been penalised for this type of transgression -- nobody is sacked or made to resign.

    However there are no such 'mitigating circumstances' for Pittokopitis in the case of the irregularities at the Paphos Co-op which were reported this week. The co-op, flagrantly violated procedural rules as well as the law -- it issued membership certificates to companies (they were ineligible) which then used them to pay lower rates for mortgage documents to the Land Surveys Department. This practice, according to the co-op secretary, had been going on for 10 years. Then it was reported that the Paphos co-op gave a company a ,700,000 loan, without securing approval, as the law stipulates, from the Registrar of Co-op Development.

    Pittokopitis' defence was ludicrous -- he claimed he knew nothing of the scam, as he had signed blank certificates, which allowed companies to pay lower rates. Then he announced that the co-op secretary had been forced to take compulsory leave. He also claimed that approval for the ,700,000 loan had been secured after it had been given -- two years later. It defies belief that a law-maker could have such contempt and disregard for the laws of the country, assisting companies in not paying their dues to a government department. His excuse, that he did not know what he was signing is just too pathetic for words.

    Did nobody tell him, when he was appointed chairman, that the post came with certain responsibilities and obligations towards the members of the co- op? The defence that he signed blank certificates, without knowing that they were being used to cheat the government, is nothing more than an admission of gross incompetence and ineptitude. For this reason alone, he should have resigned because he has proved singularly incapable of looking after the interests of the members. This was, after all, his main responsibility, apart from securing the occasional unauthorised, personal loan.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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