Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Criminal squandering on defence, as hospital waiting lists spiral

Uncertainty over health reform will evolve with the introduction of the Gesy

I HAVE dealt with the infamous issue of defence and arms spending many times in the past pointing out three things.

First, with the way the situation developed after 1974, if there were a new military confrontation in Cyprus the Turkish army would take over the rest of the island in a few hours without encountering any real resistance. This emerges, unfortunately, from the cold facts that I have analysed exhaustively in this space in the past and cannot change.

Second, the public have a right to know this harsh reality.

Third, whoever talks about military readiness, in the sense that this could supposedly protect Cyprus effectively against Turkey is telling a very dangerous lie. And when this lie is uttered by military men or politicians it takes on the dimensions of a national crime. It constitutes a calculated misleading of the public and encourages dangerous illusions that could possibly lead to a new catastrophe, worse than that of 1974.

I will not comment on the military aspect of the ingenious plan, presented some days ago by the defence minister, for the creation of a “modern and flexible semi-professional army”. All I will say is that this story is very likely to result in farce. What interests me was the minister’s assertion that the implementation of his modernisation plan would cost us €35 million a year while many more millions would be spent on buying “new arms systems”. He did not say how much, but I suspect that will come down to decisions taken by those who receive the backhanders.

In the February 13 issue of Politis, information about the waiting lists in our hospitals was published and it was shocking. For a patient to be operated on by an orthopaedic surgeon, he has to wait for two years, roughly the average waiting time for any operation at a state hospital. At Famagusta General Hospital for a heart ultrasound patients wait 21 months, for a stress test 15 months and 18 months to be seen by a cardiologist.

At Nicosia General Hospital, a woman must wait 14 months for a mammogram and at Larnaca hospital 12 months for a Pap test. We should also mention the Phileleftheros story published in September last year which said there were 12,000 people on the waiting list for a MRI scan!

There is a danger that a good number of those patients on waiting lists will be dead by the time it is their turn to have a scan, surgery or an examination by a specialist. If this situation related to poor states of Africa or Latin America and we read about it in our newspapers, most of us would feel sympathy and compassion for these people. But this affects us here.

But, despite the protests by some patients who are suffering and being caused hardship, nobody is moved. Nobody protests when he hears that this state has decided to waste €35 million a year on “professional soldiers” and nobody knows how many more hundreds of millions on military equipment that is of no use, while its poor citizens are dying because it cannot offer them the opportunity to be treated promptly by a doctor or to have a stress test or MRI scan at its hospitals.

With an amount close to €2 million – peanuts compared to what they would waste now on the unnecessary “modernisation” of the National Guard – the state could ensure that all the 12,000 patients waiting for a MRI scan for two years could have one within a few weeks.

This is our state. This is Cyprus of the 21st century, a member-state of the European Union. This is the predicament, over which everyone who runs this joke state in some way, should feel shame. I would like to ask a simple question of the members of the Council of Ministers which took the decision to waste all those millions, but especially of the president and the ministers of defence and finance. Do you sleep easy at night and are you at peace with your consciences?

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