By Poly Pantelides
THE HEALTH ministry is looking to buy services from private doctors in order to reduce huge waiting lists in the state sector for anything from major surgery to getting a scan, the health minister has said.
Petros Petrides said the aim is to sell services to willing doctors at cost-price, i.e. pay private doctors whatever it would cost the state to treat the patient. The Cyprus Medical Association and the health ministry are due to discuss the proposal this week, Petrides said.
The state health sector is over-extended and people may need to wait for over a year to be referred to a specialist or to receive lab results back even when the question the lab test aims to answer is whether a tumour is malignant or not.
Petrides told journalists yesterday that it will be up to private doctors to opt to participate in his scheme, but with the recession biting into their income the hope was that referring patients to them would also benefit them as it would the state.
Delegates of the troika of the European Commission, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund are due to visit in July to review how the health sector is cracking on with a number of agreed changes, Petrides said.
A formidable list in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed with the island’s lenders includes updating an actuarial study into the costs of implementing a National Health System and introducing clinical guidelines on high volume and high cost diseases.
“The troika wants us to increase productivity,” Petrides said.
As part of the health ministry’s efforts to do that, a decision has been taken to reduce the number of nurses allocated at outpatients’ clinics to what is strictly necessary to deal with a shortage of staff, Petrides said.
And hospitals are now starting to use unused or underused hospital space to meet treatment needs, from haemodialysis to rehabilitation space for patients needing a longer recovery item after being in intensive care.
To that end, a previously unused ward at Nicosia General hospital is now a rehabilitation centre and the hospital is also due to add eight more dialysis units staffed by nurses who need to be posted to oversee the process, Petrides said. Meanwhile, clinics and hospitals in other districts are being fitted with necessary equipment to improve their function.
“I’m optimistic that the troika will be pleased with our progress,” Petrides said.