The public hospitals entered the COVID-19 crisis with a pre-existing shortage of doctors, caused by the mass movement of health care personnel from the public to the private sector because of the implementation of the new National Health System. It is expected that the current staff shortages will be further exacerbated due to staff isolation, sickness or even potential fatalities that are likely to occur during this pandemic. It is worth noting that from a recent analysis of 267 confirmed cases, 73 concerned health professionals (15 doctors, 35 nurses), although a large proportion of the health care personnel have undergone special training regarding COVID-19. A special platform has also been created where health care professionals can receive training online.
To increase or maintain the availability of health workers, the Council of Ministers has decided to support the health sector with €100 million to combat the pandemic where necessary, including:
• Employment of additional medical and nursing personnel, and support staff for a more efficient and direct response to the work they are required to carry out
• Purchase of necessary equipment and consumables
• Support the Institute of Neurology and Genetics, both in human resources and in infrastructure
• Support of the National Ambulance Service.
In addition, according to the Quarantine Bill issued on March 10th, the Minister of Health is authorised to:
a) Enlist and call medical and nursing personnel from the private sector to work at the public hospitals.
b) Enlist and call any volunteering medical or nursing school final year students in Cypriot Universities, when necessary
The MoH has also recruited volunteers to assist with contact tracing and phone call answering inquiries. There have also been calls to industry to support the effort, by expanding laboratory capacity, and using hotels as quarantine places.
Update 18th April 2020
An important factor in the health system's effort to meet rsing demand due to COVID-19 is the significant number of infected health care workers in Cyprus. An analysis from the University of Cyprus of the first 493 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus disease, showed 25.4% were health care workers (n=125), of which 5.7% physicians (n=28), 13.2% nurses (n=65), 2.2% other health occupations (n=11), and 4.3% auxiliary staff (n=21). This reduces the capacity of the healthcare sector to effectively deal with the pandemic.
Update 6th June 2020
The number of infected health workers by the virus continues to be high in Cyprus. According to the latest National Surveillance Report, as of 02/06/2020, out of all 952 confirmed cases until June 2nd, 20% are health-care workers (n = 190) - 4.1% physicians (n = 39), 10.1% nurses (n = 96), 1.4% other health occupations (n = 13), and 4.4% auxiliary staff (n = 42) (https://www.pio.gov.cy/coronavirus/en/pdf/ep206ien.pdf).