The state is footing the bill for the funeral of 10-year-old Stavros Georgallis, whose death from a traumatic brain injury resulted in the arrest of two doctors and reopened the health debate in Cyprus.
Stavros died on Friday hours after he struck his head while playing basketball at his elementary school in Alethriko, Larnaca district. The injury caused him to have a temporal bone fracture, resulting to an intracranial epidural hematoma that went undetected or untreated initially by doctors at Larnaca General Hospital.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou, who ordered an internal probe into the matter shortly after the incident, was criticised by union doctors who blamed the death on the system, specifically bad working conditions and lack of staff.
But Ioannou has hit back, saying the problems in public healthcare were a separate issue and accused the union of using the boy’s death as an excuse to promote their agenda, essentially opposing a number of ongoing reform efforts by the government.
The union remains determined to go on strike on Wednesday, according to local reports.
The long and protracted debate on the introduction of a National Health Scheme (NHS) for Cyprus has made reform on even secondary issues impossible, as unions, the government, and other stakeholders do not agree on a way forward.
Another injured student sent home
The problem was made worse on Monday when another incident took place in another school, where a middle school student in Nicosia fell from the first floor and got injured during recess.
The student was taken to Nicosia General Hospital and was discharged after a number of medical exams, including MRI and X-ray. But the mother of the boy was not satisfied with the level of care, according to reports, and took her child to a private doctor for a second opinion.
The student underwent further medical tests and reports say he was scheduled to visit Makarios Chidren’s Hospital in Nicosia on Tuesday, with several bruises on his body including a possible concussion. The Health Ministry issued a statement clarifying that additional tests were being conducted as as a precaution.
State will pay for funeral
In the meantime, Stavros’ funeral will take place in Larnaca’s Alethriko village at Ayios Epiphanios Church at 2:30pm.
The state will foot the bill following a decision by the President’s Cabinet on Monday, while flags will be at half-staff in all schools, according to Deputy Government Spokesperson Klelia Vasiliou.
Stavros was sent home during lucid period
Stavros was initially sent home during the first ER visit at Larnaca General on Friday but his mother, who is a registered nurse, had to bring him back when he started to have severe pain in his head. She is accusing doctors of not ordering a CT scan during the first visit and for not keeping her boy in hospital to monitor his situation during the lucid interval, which typically includes only temporary signs of improivement.
Two doctors have been suspended and are facing charges of gross medical negligence, following a decision during the first visit to the Emergency Room to discharge the boy into his mother’s care without ever consulting with the radiologist on duty.
A radiologist on duty later reviewed the X-Ray after the boy’s death and confirmed the presence of epidural hematoma. But he was never consulted by the doctors, 37-year-old Hercules Pandelidakis from Greece and 65-year-old Kyriacos Kyriakides from Cyprus, who were placed under arrest around 2am Saturday morning.
The doctors are said to have concurred there had been no signs of internal damage of the inner ear following an otoscopic examination. But Kyriakides reportedly told officers he made no medical decision in the boy’s case but was simply asked by his colleague to view the X-Ray. It is still unclear whether Kyriakides actually viewed the X-Ray.
The Cyprus Medical Association spoke out against the arrest of the two doctors, saying there was no need for them to be handcuffed, while saying the investigation ought to go forward and those responsible be held accountable.