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Cyprus

Cutting down on overseas hospital bills

Earlier in the year an agreement for cooperation was reached between Makarios Children's Hospital and King's College Hospital

THE government has agreed to provide specialised care to Cypriot patients and their families through two state German hospitals, a health ministry announcement has said. 

Health ministry officials visited the Hildesheim Hospital and Frankfurt Oder earlier this month, with a view to expand a referral system for Cyprus-based patients needing transplants and radiation therapy.

The agreement with the hospitals covers family members offering support to patients who may need to spend months in recovery before they are able to return home, a health ministry official told the Cyprus Mail. The hospitals have agreed to help with transportation and accommodation, while the agreement includes training Cypriot doctors.

The agreement is part of efforts to rationalise expenses during the financial squeeze and move away from more expensive arrangements. The cost to the health ministry to send patients to the German hospitals is based on diagnosis-related groups (DRGs), an EU-standard tool for categorising and calculating costs per kinds of treatments.

The authorities have already agreed with international lenders to replace Cyprus’ current hospital payment system by payments based on DRGs to cut down expenses. The auditor general’s reports have highlighted a tendency to overpay by sending patients abroad by referring them to hospitals the ministry did not have direct agreements with.

As a result, the hospitals, usually private or outside of the EU, were free to charge the state on an individual basis and pile on extra charges for unforeseen circumstances. One U.S. hospital had asked for 554,000 dollars for a bone marrow transplant and later demanded 3m dollars due to complications. It eventually settled for 1m dollars. In the case of Israeli hospitals, the health ministry used intermediaries instead of negotiating directly, ending up overpaying dozens of thousands of euros for treatments.

The health ministry has started switching to EU state hospitals and has been making an effort to bring specialists to Cyprus for necessary treatments rather than sending patients abroad.

Makarios Children’s hospital and King’s College Hospital agreed in February last year to collaborate in hepatology and gastroenterology. Babu Vadamalayan, Paediatric Gastroenterologist with King’s College Hospital will be in Cyprus between November 24 and 28 to examine 50 children at Engomi health centre in Nicosia, the health ministry said. As part of the agreement, Vadamalayan will visit the centre at least three times a year, working alongside local staff and monitoring patients via teleconferencing.

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