By Evie Andreou
IT IS not the software programme that is causing a delay in the implementation of the National Health Scheme (NHS) but the lack of a proper legal framework, the head of the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) Thomas Antoniou said yesterday.
He was responding to claims made a day earlier by Health minister Philippos Patsalis that the NHS will not be implemented this year and in the best case scenario not before September 2016, because the vital software was not yet ready.
In June 2014, the minister had informed the parliamentary 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 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.
“We find the minister’s claims unfair and unsubstantiated; it is the legislation on how the NHS will operate, which the HIO prepared and submitted in September 2013, that is still pending,” Antoniou said.
According to the roadmap set by the troika of international lenders, the bill should have been tabled to parliament for a vote last September but didn’t, he said.
“The HIO is ready to proceed with the implementation of phase one of the NHS,” Antoniou said.
Putting in place a new and efficient health system is part of the island’s €10bn bailout plan. He added that there are delays concerning the software but that it is not due to the organisation’s fault.
“There are delays in the road map, on behalf of the EU as well with the advisors that would provide technical assistance. Even the minister admitted that the timeframe given by the Troika for the implementation of the NHS was very tight. There are external factors that could not be controlled,” he said.
He added that the HIO staff is doing everything it can for the implementation of the NHS.
But Patsalis was quick to counter Antoniou’s arguments later yesterday, arguing that the government is determined to implement the NHS, but is unable to proceed without the appropriate software.
“Introducing the software is the sole responsibility of the HIO, for which the organisation has received government funding,” the minister said.
“But it has yet to procure the software – it hasn’t even invited tenders yet, for two years.
Without the necessary software, implementation of the NHS cannot even start.”
Patsalis added that legislation cannot be cited as the reason for the delays.
“In no way can legislative matters become the scapegoat for the HIO’s delay in implementing the NHS,” he charged.
“The NHS can be implemented as soon as the HIO moves ahead with its obligation to install the software.”
“The date of implementation of the NHS is completely dependent on the date the HIO delivers the software.”