By Staff Reporter
NEW HEALTH Minister Philippos Patsalis yesterday pledged to make the welfare of patients his top priority.
“It is my personal belief that nothing is as important as serving people and their needs,” said Patsalis. The ministry of health is embarking on a new course in which people and patients will be the focus of its policies.”
Patsalis was speaking at the handover ceremony at the presidential palace where he lauded his predecessor Petros Petrides.
“You took over during one of the most difficult times in the country’s history and managed to keep the health sector at very high levels,” he said, adding that much was also done in the direction of the implementation of the national health system.
Petrides said the two greatest challenges ahead of Patsalis were the restructuring of the ministry and public hospitals, as well as the implementation of the national health scheme.
He said the ministry’s strategy for the period 2014 to 2019 had been drafted but it had not been publicised as he felt it would be best that Patsalis review it before deciding whether he wished to proceed with any amendments.
Petrides did reveal that a World Health Organisation (WHO) mission would be visiting Cyprus at the beginning of April to conduct a study on the healthcare system. Also a delegation from the British National Institute for Health and Care Excellence had been invited and is expected to sign an agreement to provide Cyprus with protocols and comparative efficiency tables on drugs and costs. Cyprus has the most expensive medicines in the EU.
Incoming Defence Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos – who was moved from communications and works – also acknowledged taking over a crucial ministry at a very difficult time with the international arena constantly changing.
Mitsopoulos stressed the need to enhance Cyprus’ geopolitical position by using defence diplomacy and by adopting a full and realistic view of the Republic’s capabilities.
Referring to the restructuring of the National Guard, Mitsopoulos said the responsibility was huge, adding that more needed to be done to upgrade the National Guard in spite of financial difficulties. He called for transparency on all levels and of combating corruption and collusion.
Former minister Fotis Fotiou said that during his term a number of significant developments had taken place, and referred specifically to the work done on the restructuring of the National Guard, and the Memorandum of Understanding with Israel on issues of energy security.
With regard to plans to shorten military service, Fotiou said he had briefed the cabinet during its latest meeting and expressed certainty that the government would implement this measure. The plan is to reduce the service from 24 to 14 months, probably gradually. Fotiou was on the point of taking his plan to the cabinet when the reshuffle occurred.
During the education ministry handover, new minister Costas Kadis addressed ministry staff. “I want you all to know that we will all work as a team, that my office is open for any issue and suggestion, and I am certain that good cooperation and hard work we will do what needs to be done in culture and education,” he said.
Outgoing minister Kyriakos Kenevezos said that the past year was a very hard one, for the country and its people.
“But the length of the journey matters less than its content,” he said. “We made tough decisions because the times are difficult, we made mistakes and I want to apologise on a personal level to anyone that I wronged. I want to apologize to those whose expectations were not fulfilled in my presence, to apologise to the children for everything we dreamed of but couldn’t do,” Kenevezos said.
New Communications and Works Minister Marios Demetriades said all efforts must go to bosting the economy.
“The president has already managed to stabilise the economy at a time when everyone believed everything would collapse. At this stage what we must do is move forward so the economy can start growing again, so that employment can be created as this is one of the biggest problems we face.’