Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Thursday that timeframes set for the introduction of the National Health Scheme (Gesy) are tight but feasible.
The newly appointed minister spoke after his first meeting with the House health committee, where he briefed MPs on the goals and the next steps that must be taken on health sector reforms.
Ioannou said his ministry’s goal is to see the administrative and financial autonomy of state hospitals achieved.
As regards the implementation of Gesy, he said that phase one concerning outpatient care must be completed by June 1, 2019 and a year later, on June 1, 2020 Gesy must be in full swing.
At the same time, Ioannou said, hospital autonomy – which is a prerequisite of the plan – is proceeding as planned.
He added that the board of directors of the organisation of state health services (Okyy) has been appointed and that his ministry has set in motion procedures to implement reform of outpatient care.
“The timeframes are tight but I believe that we will make it,” Ioannou said.
On criticism from opposition parties on the appointment of some members of the Okyy board, Ioannou said that the goal was to appoint the most competent individuals as it concerns one of the greatest reforms in the country.
He gave the example of the Okyy chairman of the board, Sir David Nicholson, who he said ‘was responsible for running the corresponding reform in England, working in over 10 countries as a consultant and carrying tremendous experience’.
“The goal when the board was appointed was qualifications. We were looking for specific qualifications and we found them in these people,” he said.
When the first employees are hired at Okyy, he said, procedures concerning hospital autonomy will run faster.
He said that the bills discussed last week by the committee concerned the budget of Okyy, but that a correction had been made to an article concerning conflict of interest of the board members.
“It used to be ‘in any businesses’ […] We changed it to ‘any businesses that deal with health issues’. That was the amendment,” Ioannou said.
The minister said that there is no issue of conflict of interest for any of the Okyy board members.
Opposition MPs had accused the government last week of attempting to legitimise the appointment of the board of Okyy through the amendment in question.
Akel and Edek deputies, had said that the composition of the Okyy board was contrary to the law, and also cited possible conflict of interest.
Ioannou said that such accusations ought to be substantiated.
The eight-member board of the organisation of state health services was appointed last December, following cabinet approval. The main responsibilities of the board of directors are to oversee the operation of all public hospitals and centres of primary health care as well as the implementation of administrative and financial autonomy in public hospitals. Okyy will replace the health ministry in providing health services.