Cyprus lifeguards say woman's drowning could have been prevented if their work was made less difficult
Lifeguards are up in arms over the death of a 65-year-old swimmer in Protaras, saying they could have saved her life if the government had agreed to changes in their working conditions.
Maria Goumenou was spotted in the water, unconscious, around 7am Tuesday at Golden Coast beach in Protaras, while her husband was nearby fishing. The couple was known for visiting the area on a daily basis for a morning swim, according to local reports.
Medics were called to the scene and took the woman to the Emergency Room at Famagusta General Hospital, where doctors on duty pronounced her death. It is not clear whether a pre-existing medical condition was the cause of death, while drowning was mentioned as a possibility.
But lifeguards issued a statement later in the day blaming the death on the government.
“If there were lifeguards with proper equipment (defibrillator, oxygen mask, etc), the woman could have been brought back to life and we could have avoided this tragic incident,” it was said in the statement.
The debate over employment and working conditions has been a long and protracted battle between local authorities, the government, and lifeguards who say they are not properly equipped and their working conditions are difficult.
Some of the lifeguards’ grievances include lack of proper watchtowers, some of which have been described as ‘archaic’ in previous statements where they say have no place to store their personal items or first aid kits.
Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides recently said the government was looking into the possibility of putting new watchtowers, which would comply with EU standards both in structure as well as in distance between them.
Lifeguards are also engaged in an ongoing disagreement with several municipalities and officials, including Paphos Mayor Phedonas Phedonos, who has described lifeguard demands as “union tactics” for more pay and more staff that would lead to fewer individual hours.
A recent point of disagreement was how early in the morning should lifeguards report to duty in and how long should they man their stations, with lifeguards calling on two different shifts to alleviate the problem.
But this would require hiring more lifeguards, and union demands over pay and group contracts have been a thorny issue for government officials.
Lifeguards also say they need jet skis, citing that inflatable boats with propellers could be unsafe for some areas.