By George Psyllides
The health ministry is cutting waiting lists short pending the implementation of the NHS by referring patients to the private sector through the “coupon” procedure.
According to health ministry permanent secretary Christina Yiannaki, there are two criteria for a patient to be referred: if the condition cannot be diagnosed and treated effectively in state hospitals, and if a particular diagnosis and treatment cannot be provided within the required timeframe.
Speaking at a news conference, Yiannaki said the state was buying private sector services in relation with heart and eye conditions, and laparoscopic and robotic prostatectomy.
The health ministry official said procedures were underway to refer chronic patients to private hospitals or elderly homes as well as conducting heart and breast MRIs, interventional radiology and chemoembolization.
Apart from surgical procedures, the coupon can be used for MRI examinations from facilities that meet certain specifications.
With the coupon the government sets a minimum subsidised price calculated after a review of the service pricelist offered by participating private centres and doctors.
Patients who opt for a centre or doctor that has a higher price from the ones set by the ministry would have to cover the difference out of their own pocket.
Heart surgeries will be carried out by two medical centres in Nicosia and one in Limassol. A third private hospital will be added in Nicosia in January.
The pricelist includes 51 services relating to heart surgeries, including pre and post op tests.
It also includes hospital stay of up to 20 days as well as the first post op visit. Pre-coupon prices only included 14 days.
The prices start at €9,000 and reach €21,000.
For eye surgery there will be five private doctors – one in Nicosia and four in Limassol – who will provide 13 procedures. Prices range between €500 and €2,300.
For laparoscopic and robotic prostatectomy, the ministry official said the prices were €7,000 and €7,500 respectively.
Yiannaki said the referral procedure with the coupon method is being implemented with the agreement of the auditor-general and has been cleared by the Legal Service. It cuts bureaucracy, strengthens transparency, respects patients and saves resources and man hours, she added.