IF WE NEEDED a reminder that the national health scheme (Gesy) is moving at a slower pace than the Cyprus settlement talks it is provided every few months when President Anastasiades calls a meeting of interested parties at the presidential palace and announces he would take the initiative to speed things up. We cannot remember how many such meetings there have been, but last summer he even invited all the party leaders to listen to their proposals in a Gesy national council, and secure their support.
On Thursday there was a meeting attended by three ministers and a large number of technocrats at the presidential palace while on Tuesday Anastasiades will play host to the representatives of the two nursing unions which have been threatening strike action over their demand for higher pay. One of the two unions argues that because nurses now obtain a university degree, their pay grade should reflect the fact that they were graduates. The government has refused to give in, but the union have called a general meeting on March 6, as which they are expected to vote for strike action. We do not know whether the hospital doctors’ union Pasyki has any action planned as well.
An indication that the government is not quite sure what it is doing has been the number of studies that are in the pipeline. There are currently five. The Organisation of Health Insurance is preparing an actuarial study for the Gesy fund, the health ministry is preparing one on the viability of the hospitals and another on the costing of medical services. Meanwhile, the finance ministry will conduct two studies that would look at the impact of Gesy on public finances and the effects of monthly contributions by businesses on employment and the rate of growth.
It is astonishing that these studies, on which the Gesy planning should have been based, are only being prepared now. What if these studies conclude that Gesy made no economic sense because autonomous hospitals would never be financially viable or because the plan would place too great a burden on public finances? A study by the consulting firm Deloitte, commissioned by the Cyprus Medical Association and presented to the health minister on Thursday, expressed serious reservations about the way the cost of Gesy was calculated (it found the proposed budget of €1.2 billion was not enough) and questioned the quality of the actuarial studies conducted over the years.
The overall impression is that Gesy is nothing more than a publicity exercise, as neither the politicians nor the technocrat seems to have a clue how it would be implemented. For years they have been sitting at endless meetings and preparing studies but nobody is prepared to put anything into practice. Perhaps the government should commission a study on how Gesy would, eventually, move from the planning to the implementation stage.