By Evie Andreou
The suspension of non-mandatory training for doctors interested in becoming General Practitioners (GPs) under the National Health Scheme (NHS) was the only option given the delays in implementing the new system, the chairman of the Cyprus Medical Association (CyMA) Petros Agathangelou has said.
One of the key changes in the planned under the NHS is that patients will be entitled to select their doctor from a pool of family GPs who will be their first point of contact with the healthcare system, and will decide whether referral to a specialist doctor is warranted.
The CyMA assumed the responsibility of training doctors as GPs ahead of the NHS, whose first phase was expected to be implemented this July, but the date has been pushed back.
Health Minister, Philippos Patsalis, said last month that vital software was not yet ready and that that the best case scenario for implementation of the NHS would now be September 2016.
GP courses had started last October and the decision to suspend them was taken by the new board of CyMA, Agathangelou told the Cyprus Mail.
He said that after studying and discussing the issue it was decided that it was not fair for the association and the participating doctors to be burdened with training costs for something that it was not likely to be implemented any time soon.
“It was an ethical and right decision for our fellow doctors as this course would not contribute anything to their future as GPs. The course was of a technocratic nature, not academic, and it is not a prerequisite for them to work as GPs under the NHS,” he said.
He added that the training of the doctors was in fact the responsibility of the health ministry and the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) but that acting on good faith the previous CyMA board went ahead and organised the course and assumed the costs.
“There is difficulty in the implementation of a functional and viable NHS… taking into consideration the difficulties the involved parties are facing we decided to discontinue the courses. At a time when we haven’t yet decided on its [the NHS] basic principles how can we implement courses as if the system will be up and running tomorrow?” Agathangelou said.
He added that the medical world was in full support of a functioning and viable NHS and that CyMA will officially express their views on the scheme’s strategic philosophy after they receive information from all involved parties.
Patsalis’ remarks on the delay on the implementation of the NHS last month, sparked a public spat between his ministry and the HIO, which is been held responsible as the software programme falls under its responsibility.
The head of the HIO Thomas Antoniou responded that the delay was due to the lack of a proper legal framework and that delays concerning the software were not his organisation’s fault.
Initially, the first phase of the NHS which was a term in the island’s €10bn bailout was to be implemented by July 2015, the second in January 2016 and the third in July 2016.