By Jean Christou
The National Health Scheme (NHS) will not be implemented this year and in the best case scenario, it will be September 2016 until it is ready, Health Minister Philippos Patsalos told the Cyprus News Agency in an interview published on Thursday.
In June 2014, the minister had informed parliament’s health committee that the first phase of the NHS would be implemented by July 2015, the second in January 2016 and the third in July 2016.
Patsalis told CAN the ministry now had no clear indication when the NHS could be implemented until the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) announces a date for when its software system would be up and running.
“This is one of the key pieces for the proper functioning of the NHS, and it not yet ready,” Patsalis said.
Scenarios that have recently come to the table during discussions on the issue indicate at best the system would be ready by September 2016, and in the worst case scenario, the first quarter of 2017.
“So unfortunately there are issues which puts the ministry into a position where it cannot implement the NHS in 2015,” the minister added.
“It was pretty much expected, as it was known that the schedules were tight and the troika knew that.” Implementation of the NHS is part of the memorandum agreed with international lenders for the island’s €10bn bailout.
Patsalis said the HIO has not even completed dialogue on the software system and was not even close to issuing tender invitations though the ministry has allocated €10.5m to the organisation for the software.
“It is the responsibility of the Health Insurance Agency. We put a lot of pressure on the agency to give us a date for when the software would be ready, they informed us verbally at the end of 2014 that the software would not be ready and that they are still discussing among themselves after which they will give us an exact date,” the minister said.
Following a meeting with the HIO last week, Patsalis said they were given the best case scenario date of September 2016 and the worst-case scenario of mid 2017.
“But even in best-case scenarios, delays are always expected,” he added.
“The NHS is a huge and complex undertaking and a lot needs to be done and the most crucial part of that is the software and right now there is no software.”
He did concede that there were other potential delays relating to health services personnel. Various staff unions within the sector have been pursuing their own demands within a new NHS, many of which are still outstanding or have not even started yet.
“So without saying that the delay is the sole responsibility of the HIO, it does however have a huge share of responsibility,” he added.
Also he said discussions with the troika had not been completed on the issue. He said troika or ‘the institutions’ as it is now called, would be here next month.