Exclusive Interview with the team at St George’s & Blue Cross Hospitals in Paphos by Cyprus in Style Magazine

St George & Blue Cross Hospitals in Paphos - Cyprus in Style - Covid Update Pandemic

February 2020

A MEDICAL RESPONSIBILITY

Meet Dr Antonios Economides, George Kaniklides and Dr Constantinos AndreouSt.George’s Polyclinic and Blue Cross Medical Centre


St.George’s Polyclinic and the Blue Cross Medical Centre have joined forces to create a unique and comprehensive medical facility for the Pafos Region. Their combined experience, expertise and resources, together with their state-of-the-art medical equipment means they can offer the highest standard of medical care. Here we meet three key figures from the hospital and find out about their roles caring for the population of Paphos.


MEET DR. ANTONIOS ECONOMIDES

General Surgeon, Urologist and President of the Board of Directors

Dr. Antonios Economides was born in Peyia and brought up in Paphos. After attending Medical School at the University of Athens, he relocated to the UK in 1974 where he continued his training in General Surgery in Birmingham. After Dr Antonios finished his General Surgery training, he continued his studies in Urology. In Birmingham, he was the Resident Surgical Officer and was the only doctor who was allowed to have two specialities in General Surgery and Urology. Originally, he wanted to be a Civil Engineer but his mother wanted him to be a doctor and follow in the footsteps of his uncle. Today he lives in Paphos and is a father of three.


WHY DID YOU RETURN TO CYPRUS?

It was always my intention to return to Cyprus and come home. I had many options all over the world after I had spent nine years in Birmingham, but I was very happy to set up my clinic in Paphos in 1983. Initially, I opened a small clinic called Blue Cross, and I was also working part-time in Athens. I later went on to open St.George’s Hospital with some colleagues and then in the 90’s we opened the Blue Cross Hospital with some other medical professionals.

WHY DID YOU SPECIALISE IN UROLOGY?

I have had a family interest in kidneys for a very long time. I have also been involved and been a Past President of the Paphos Kidney Association. The Association aims to fundraise for the much-needed equipment and support the patients. Patients who rely on dialysis need support and anything we can do to make that easier has got to be a good thing.

We have a specialist Lithotripsy Unit at the hospital. It is a complete unit for the breakdown of kidney stones. We break the stones down from the outside without the need for an operation, and most patients can be treated as a day case. Lithotripsy is a procedure which uses shock waves to break up stones in the kidney, bladder, or ureter. Once the procedure has taken place, the stone pieces pass out of the body in the patient’s urine. We are the only unit in Paphos, and we are very pleased to offer this treatment as there is a dramatic reduction in recovery time.

At both our hospitals, we firmly believe that the constant reinvestment in the latest medical technology is in the long-term best interests of our patients.

We spent in excess of 120,000 euros on our Holmium laser machine which is used to treat an enlarged prostate. This means the surgery is bloodless, and patients can go home the next day. Recovery is fast and uncomplicated.

WHAT IS THE BEST MEDICAL ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE OUR READERS?

I firmly believe that prevention is the main advice to everyone. Regular check-ups are essential. For example, mammograms and prostate check-ups should take place on an annual basis. The Greek physician Hippocrates, who is one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine, stated that, “prevention is better than treatment” and I thoroughly agree with that statement. Of course, a big part of our medical health is our lifestyle. We need to be careful what we eat and drink and should not smoke. Moreover, we must exercise. All the research studies into exercise prove beyond doubt, that exercise is very, very important at reducing your chances of some diseases.

TELL US ABOUT THE NEW RENAL UNIT WHICH IS PLANNED.

It is very exciting to be opening a new Renal Unit at our St. George’s Hospital. The need for a good kidney unit in Paphos has existed for many years. We are very happy to be investing in and opening this facility which will improve the lives of our patients.

We are planning to have a space which will be divided into 13 units. It is a purpose-built Renal Unit and has been designed to offer privacy and space for the patients. It is being built according to EU regulations. 10 of the 13 units will be offered for everyday use and two as reserve machines in case there is a problem. This way we can continue the dialysis straight away. We are also keeping one unit as an emergency option.

We will have two very experienced doctors as part of the Renal Unit and a medical team who will support them. The unit will offer TVs and WIFI to make the time pass for the patients while they have their treatment. We are planning to open the unit in the next few months.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON GESY?

Personally, I am very much in favour of making all healthcare available to all. We look forward to working and supporting the Ministry of Health. We have been educating our nursing team with further training, renovating theatres, and buying new equipment to be prepared for the additional patients.

WHAT ARE THE FUTURE PLANS AT ST.GEORGE’S AND BLUE CROSS HOSPITALS?

We have had a very busy time recently with the opening of the first Cath Lab in Paphos. Whilst we are working on the new Renal Unit, we are also doing a number of improvements across both hospitals.

A new radiologist is being employed and will operate an additional CT machine, as well as a radiographer who is very experienced in doing mammograms and who will be using a new digital mammogram. We are also bringing in a gamma camera which will be used for thyroid scans and other investigations. It is the only gamma camera in both Limassol and Paphos and is based at our MRI centre.

At St. George’s Hospital we are aiming to create an Obstetric Unit which will provide care for pregnant women. This will be a combined project with other doctors from the Pafos region.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?

I used to play volleyball and football but now I enjoy the sport as a spectator. I am also President of Pafiakos volleyball team. I very much enjoy watching the matches which can take me all over Cyprus. As I grew up in nature, I still enjoy gardening, especially in my garden at my house in Kallepia. I love the nature surrounding this village.


MEET GEORGE KANIKLIDES

General Manager, St George’s & Blue Cross Hospitals

George Kaniklides was born and brought up in Nicosia. After his military service, he left Cyprus to study in the UK where he did his Batchelor’s degree in Hotel Management in Birmingham. He returned to the island and worked in several hotels in both Limassol and Paphos. Later on, George went on to study for his Master’s degree in International Hotels and Tourism, on a scholarship at Oxford and was awarded the accolade of “Top Student” of his year. George then returned to Cyprus and continued his career in hotels. In 2012, when the St. George’s Hospital and Blue Cross Hospital merged, he became the General Manager of both hospitals. He lives in Paphos with his wife and is a father of two.


YOUR POSITION SOUNDS LIKE IT HAS A LOT OF RESPONSIBILITY – WHAT DOES IT ENTAIL?

I am responsible for all estate management and the day-to-day running of two large hospitals. I oversee staff, arrange all purchasing and solve problems that may occur. I deal with payments and accounts as well. A large part of my job is keeping on top of building maintenance. Through my work, I have learnt a lot about the medical profession. To do my job, I need to be familiar with all aspects. Another part of it is attending the regular meetings with the Ministry of Health, usually having to do with the various aspects of GESY. I am also in continual communication with our doctors, in order to help with any issues they may have.

HOW DO YOU THINK GESY IS GOING?

It is very busy and going very well. Initially, the General Healthcare System was very busy, but now we are seeing it calm down. We are keen to support the Ministry of Health through discussions to correct some of the procedures they are following.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR EMERGENCY AMBULANCE SERVICE.

Whilst we have a department head of this service, I am in overall charge. We have developed this service from a single initial ambulance to five today. We also have two wheelchair cars and a wheelchair minibus. The membership of our service gives people real peace of mind. In the event of unfortunately needing an ambulance, we will be there as soon as possible. Our staff are mainly British and come from an NHS or military background.

HOW MANY STAFF DO YOU HAVE AT ST. GEORGE’S AND BLUE CROSS HOSPITALS?

We are working closely with over 80 doctors in both hospitals and a staff of over 100 members. We have specialists in all areas of medicine so we can treat the patients under our care. For example, we have a specialist neurosurgeon called Dr Michael Spyrou, who works from the hospital. Every Friday, we have Dr George Astras who comes down from the American Hospital in Nicosia to offer private chemotherapy. In our endoscopy and colonoscopy department, we have the gastroenterologist, Dr Stelios Papasavvas. We also have an extensive Physio department with four physiotherapists who work closely with our patients during their recovery.

WHAT MAKES THE ST. GEORGE AND BLUE CROSS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER HOSPITALS?

We are continually striving to improve our services and make the latest medical techniques and equipment available to our patients. Our priority is to care for our patients and to help them recover from any medical incident they might have suffered. An example of a unique service that we offer, is having the only lithotriptor in Paphos and Limassol. This is used by our specialist, Dr Economides, to destroy kidney stones with sonic waves. It is the safest and most comfortable way to treat this issue. We are also very proud of our newly opened PAPHOS INTERVENTIONAL CARDIOLOGY CENTER, but Dr Andreou, our director of that department can tell you more about that.

DOES YOUR BACKGROUND IN HOTEL MANAGEMENT HELP WITH YOUR CURRENT ROLE?

Yes, it does, as hospitals and hotels have strong similarities. All of our hospital bedrooms are en suite and have satellite TV. In the food department, at the hospitals, we give our patients a menu, and they can select what they would like to eat while they stay with us. To maintain our high standards, all the food that is served to the patients is prepared by a hotel.

Our primary inpatient hospital is at the Blue Cross Hospital which is where I am based. At the St. George’s Hospital, we have our doctor’s offices and daycare departments. We also have specific departments there, like Radiology. Lastly, located at St. George’s, is the Friends’ Hospice, which offers palliative care in a dedicated wing.

WHAT IS THE BEST AND WORST PART OF YOUR JOB?

It has been humbling to be involved with a project from the start and see it come to fruition. This is what has happened with the new Cath Lab. It began as an idea and then developed through until its opening in November last year. To see it today in full operation and most importantly helping people is extremely rewarding. It will save many lives in Paphos, and I am proud to have been part of the process.

To see a patient recover from a severe episode and to witness their continual improvement due to the care we offer, is most certainly the best part of my job. We are a close team at both hospitals, and a patient’s full recovery is always our aim.

The worst, is when a patient unfortunately passes away. That despite our best efforts, we are unable to save them. It affects us all deeply and is something neither I nor my team ever gets used to.

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?

The most important thing I do on a Sunday is to spend time relaxing with my family. I am also the Vice President of “Yes to Life” which is about drugs awareness and making young people understand the dangers of drugs. We do this by speaking at local schools. I am also the General Secretary of the Pafiakos volleyball team. We are first in the Men’s league, and the Women’s team is third, so we are doing well. Every week we travel somewhere for a stadium match.


MEET DR. CONSTANTINOS ANDREOU  

Medical Director, STGBC Paphos Interventional Cardiology Centre

Dr Constantinos Andreou was born and raised in Paphos. He comes from a medical family as his father is also a cardiologist. He studied and did his residency at the University of Thrace in Alexandroupolis in Greece. He went on to study at the University of Athens, where he specialised in congenital adult heart disease. He later went on to change direction and focused his studies on interventional cardiology, as he felt it was more active and rewarding. He finished his studies at the LUMC Centre in Leiden in The Netherlands, where he did his first year on a scholarship granted by the Greek Association of Cardiology. Upon the completion of his studies, he returned to Cyprus and worked at Limassol General Hospital in the interventional cardiology department, before starting at the new centre last year. He lives in Central Paphos with his wife and two children.


WHAT IS THE STGBC PAPHOS INTERVENTIONAL CARDIOLOGY CENTRE?

In short, the centre is a Cath Lab; a facility that has diagnostic imaging equipment which can see all the arteries and chambers of the heart. It can treat any stenosis or abnormality. It is to treat patients with acute cardio problems such as a heart attack or dangerous rhythms as soon as possible. Prior to our centre opening, this facility was not available to the people of Paphos as the nearest clinic is in Limassol. The European and American medical guidelines always recommend that in the event of a severe heart issue, a patient should be treated within one hour. Depending on the location in Paphos, this was not always a possibility. After a one-million-euro investment and two years planning, the centre was opened last November at the Blue Cross Hospital, by the Minister of Health, Mr Constantinos Ioannou.

The Ministry of Health has promised us the full support of the government. Our future aim is to achieve cooperation between government hospitals and the private sector. All for the better health of all citizens.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF GOING TO A CATH LAB QUICKLY?

In acute coronary syndromes, the time lost until treatment can equate to cardiac tissue loss. Before we opened, our patients would suffer a significant delay until treatment, as immediate care was not available. Our centre can offer Primary and scheduled PCIs (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention), which is a non-surgical procedure which uses a catheter to place a stent to open up the blood vessels in the heart. We are also able to do permanent and temporary pacemaker implantations and ICD implantations (a device placed under the skin to monitor the heart).

Our centre has the latest equipment for the functional assessment of the coronary arteries (to see inside the arteries). Our new versions of Volcano Sync Vision technology are used for intracoronary ultrasounds and fractional flow reserve, and it is the first time this brand-new equipment has been used in Europe.

If a cardio patient is treated quickly, their recovery is much quicker, and the damage to the heart is much less. We can begin a procedure within 10 minutes. A delay causes complications such as dangerous arrhythmias and even death. If we can do the operation quickly, this reduces the risk of death.

SO, FOR PATIENTS, THIS MEANS?

In the event of a heart attack, we have to find the source of the problem as quickly as possible. The ultrasound equipment helps us to see the inner vessels and schedule a procedure to arrange an implant that will save the patient’s life. We can quickly ascertain if there is ‘narrowing’ or not, and if it is significant. This determines if the patient requires a stent or not. Time is of the essence here.

For example, we recently had a patient who was in the Cath Lab within 30 minutes of his first call. This massively improved his chances of survival. My team at the centre and I are on call 24 hours a day and can be here in minutes.

After June, with the second stage of GESY in action, we are delighted that all patients under the scheme will have the opportunity to have access to the Lab. At the moment, we are busy with referrals from private hospitals in Paphos and cardiologists from the General Hospital.

WHY DID YOU BECOME A DOCTOR?

My father was a cardiologist, and I grew up in a medical environment. As a child, I saw my father and his colleagues saving lives, and I knew then that I wanted to dedicate my life to following their example.

WHAT IS THE BEST HEART HEALTH ADVICE YOU CAN OFFER?

If a patient has a history of heart problems, they should always visit their cardiologist regularly for check-ups. They should always follow the advice given by their doctor. All patients should reduce their risk factor of heart problems by following a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise. Patients should not smoke and follow a healthy diet. Remember, if a doctor recommends a particular drug, you should take it. Doctors have a scientific background and know the best medications for your symptoms.

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS AT THE CENTRE?

We aim to develop the Cath Lab further by offering the best facilities, equipment and staff in Paphos. We have a dedicated team here, including an old colleague of mine from Athens who I used to work with at the Red Cross Hospital. He is our Head Nurse, Dionysios Gatzopoulos, who relocated to Paphos to take up this position. He has worked in this field for 23 years and brings a wealth of experience to assist me with procedures.

We are also planning to do operations that other medical centres do not offer on the island. We will do this by flying doctors in from Greece and The Netherlands. Our intention is to do Chronic Total Occlusions with the cooperation of expert cardiologists from these countries. This means we are bringing the latest medical care to our patients in Paphos. Another area we aim to expand is the Arrhythmic Department.

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME AWAY FROM THE HOSPITAL?

I enjoy spending time with my family and my close friends. Every day I go to the gym before I start work. I also enjoy travelling but I usually combine it with a medical conference. Last year I went to Turin in Italy and attended a conference on CTOs. The year before I went to Aalst in Belgium and went on a Rotablation course. Attending international conferences keeps me up to date with all the latest cardio medical advances which, will ultimately help my patients.


For more information, please visit their website.

By Sarah Coyne