By Evie Andreou
THE House Health committee said it was not impressed by the new timeframes given by Health minister Philippos Patsalis on the implementation of hospital autonomy, since it should have already been implemented, committee chair Costas Constantinou said on Thursday.
Following a committee briefing by Patsalis, who told MPs that hospital autonomy is slated to be introduced by next January, Constantinou said that even though it is understandable that the whole project is a huge task, “unfortunately it has not materialised, even though that it was a basic requirement” for the implementation of the National Health Scheme.
Patsalis said that the final draft of the revised bill on hospital autonomy is available on the ministry’s website for an intensive 15-day dialogue before it is tabled to parliament.
“It will be hotly debated the next fifteen days… and we want to believe that by mid- June we will table it to parliament aiming to have it voted before the summer recess,” the minister said.
He added that the final draft there hs a great change, which provides for the autonomous administration of the seven state hospitals, which will have the executive authority to act with flexibility and speed to satisfy the needs of patients.
Through this modern administrative model, public hospitals will have administrative, scientific, academic, legal and political autonomy, Patsalis said, and will evolve into semi-governmental public organisations and operate just like “the good, modern hospitals in the rest of Europe.”
A result of this great change will be the upgrade of healthcare services, he said.
He added that hospital autonomy must be achieved before the NHS is implemented because under the new health scheme, patients will be able to choose which doctor and which hospital to visit and “we will need robust and well managed infrastructure both in the private and public sectors”.
He added that the administrative team of each hospital will be hired through international competitions with high academic and professional standards, and will be given five-year contracts.
As regards employees, he said that some 7,000 people currently working at the state hospitals will be transferred to the new organisations’ authority.
Hourly-wage employees “will continue under the same working status and contract employees will be given new contracts by the organisations,” Patsalis said.
He added that discussions are still underway for civil servants but that they will retain their status.
He said that each autonomous hospital, one in every district, will be unified with the health centres of their districts.
According to the draft bill, which provides for the autonomy of the six state hospitals in Nicosia, Larnaca, Limassol, Paphos and Famagusta, and the Makarios hospital in Nicosia, the organisations will rely on the healthcare services they provide for revenue, as well as educational programmes, bursaries and donations.
Until the implementation of the NHS, the bill says, any budget shortages will be covered by the state for up to three years, but at a descending rate; the first year it may cover the whole shortage, the second year half of it and in the third 25 per cent.
After the end of the third year, state funding to hospitals will be discontinued and they will have individual responsibility to regulate their revenues and expenses.
State hospitals will set their own rates on their medical services, inpatient care and other services, while each autonomous hospital will be run by its board, which will manage the property of the institution and represent it before the health ministry or other authorities.
According to the draft bill, state hospitals may also establish and manage other organisations.
The hospitals will have their own internal rules and will also regulate new staff employment, as well as employee evaluation and promotions.
As regards the NHS, Patsalis said that “the new realistic timeframes stipulate that phase one will be implemented by January 2017 and phase two by May 2017”.