By Angelos Anastasiou
Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis has ended the Cyprus government’s cooperation with the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the implementation of a National Health Scheme (NHS), thereby waiving a €2-million subsidy offered by the organisation, daily Politis reported on Wednesday.
The health ministry’s collaboration with the WHO was agreed in 2014, as part of the operation of the European Commission’s Support Group to promote reforms listed as conditions in Cyprus’ €10-billion bailout loan by international creditors – among which was the introduction of a national health scheme.
The support programme was scheduled to last until December 2016, but various interim deadlines have already been missed.
In a letter to the WHO’s regional office for Europe, dated November 20, 2015, Pamporidis claimed the programme ended on October 31, and thanked the WHO for the assistance it had provided Cyprus.
But as it turned out, the paper claimed, the cooperation has not expired.
Citing unnamed sources, Politis said the first disagreements between the health ministry and the WHO came up early last month, when a WHO email outlined the schedule of cooperation for 2016.
In an emailed reply on November 12, the ministry charged that the WHO had revised documents without prior consultation, and that the time allowed to the ministry for approval – 24 hours – was extremely short. The email also expressed the ministry’s disappointment over the WHO’s adding projects to the planning without informing the ministry.
In light of the above, Pamporidis contacted the director of the Support Group – since renamed Structural Reform Support Service – and informed her of the ministry’s decision to end the cooperation over implementation of the NHS in Cyprus.
Remarking on his decision, the health minister told Politis that the disagreement with the WHO was over the remuneration its experts demanded. Out of a total €2 million offered by the European Union to fund the collaboration, the WHO experts asked for €1.2 million.
Asked on Twitter who will replace the WHO’s expertise, Pamporidis pointed to the EU’s Structural Reform Support Service.
“The representative of the SRSS, a specialist on healthcare reforms, who is already placed permanently at the health ministry, and what’s more, FOR FREE,” he tweeted.
According to a letter by Pamporidis’ predecessor at the health ministry Philippos Patsalis, the European Union’s Support Group agreed to provide the budgeted €2 million for the collaboration with the WHO.
However, Pamporidis appears confident that the ministry will be able to claim the money directly from the European Union, regardless of the WHO’s non-involvement.
Further, the minister claimed that his decision to discontinue the cooperation project was made in consultation with the European Union, after November’s updated action plan called for €1.2 million in experts’ fees.