No self-serving interests and no coercion will reverse the decision to implement the National Health System (NHS) and the modernisation of public hospitals, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the book launch of Dr Lakis Anastasiades’ book ‘Works of Cypriot Doctors – Medicine in Cyprus 1950-2015’ at the Filoxenia Convention Centre, Anastasiades told the gathered members of the Cyprus Medical Association that he felt obliged to make clear the government’s intentions with regard to the handling of the single biggest issue concerning health on the island.
“In circumstances that you know better than anyone, we are called to consolidate the health sector, correct distortions, and finally improve the standard of services offered to patients,” he said.
Acknowledging the serious problems facing the industry, the president added that he was “fully aware that to press ahead with reform we will have to go head to head with entrenched interests”.
“But in order to succeed, we will all – government and doctors – need to put in our knowledge, our courage, and our hard work, in order to overcome problems that have accumulated over the years,” he added.
“The message I want to send is clear: no self-serving interests and no coercion by anyone will reverse our irrevocable decision to implement the National Health System and the modernisation, at long last, of public hospitals, so that every citizen can enjoy quality health services, as is worthy of every modern state.”
At least in part, Anastasiades was referring to the ongoing indefinite strike nurses’ union PASYNO has been staging since last week.
To achieve the goal – implementation of the NHS – the president added, important reforms toward the financial and administrative autonomy of public hospitals are imperative, as are the completion of costing of services offered and the introduction of up-to-date software.
Anastasiades said that, until the NHS was fully implemented, a road map will ensure that long-standing problems will be addressed.
“This includes long waiting lists,” he said.
“We will not fail to look at how to tackle this most serious of issues, as we will not leave the hospitals and the state’s investments idle – working for half a day and remaining inactive at all other times.”
On Wednesday, AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou presented his party’s assessment of the situation in the health sector.
Blaming the government, Kyprianou pointed out that Cyprus was the only European Union member state without a national health system, and its health-related expenditure are only 5.5. per cent, versus 15 per cent across the EU.
“The only negotiation that appears to have been done over Cyprus’ economic adjustment programme was to suspend implementation of the NHS, or amend its provisions,” AKEL’s leader said.
“AKEL supports the autonomy or restructuring of public hospitals, but the manner in which this will be achieved is important. We insist that their public character must not be disturbed.”
This is to say that “full autonomy” is a recipe for disaster, Kyprianou argued.
“In this sense, ‘autonomy’ refers to the introduction of austerity, where whatever isn’t ‘financially viable’ is discarded or outsourced,” he said.
“Thus, either doctors are forced to turn into ‘managers’, or directors that have nothing to do with health are hired. Under this regime, finances matter more than patients’ universal right to healthcare.”
The NHS, AKEL’s leader said, can be introduced without full autonomy of public hospitals.
“What is truly required is the restructuring of public hospitals (administrative, financial, and scientific) so that they can become efficient and competitive,” he said.