ANY cuts in the Health Ministry’s budget in the last years are due to measures taken by both the current and previous governments, namely payroll cutbacks and savings, minister George Pamboridis said on Friday.
Speaking at a press conference on the ministry’s budget, in a bid to defend the government following constant criticism by opposition parties as to the public health sector, Pamboridis said that savings achieved were not at the expense of services, as they are the product of “better and more rational management of public funds”.
He also urged all MP candidates to be especially careful when discussing in public the health sector, as he said, “health is a social commodity and should not be regarded as a step towards populism, but it concerns all citizens of this country regardless of ideological, political or social background”.
He added that he felt he had to make some clarifications concerning everything that has been said lately, so that “truth is attributed to references that are being made recently on the health sector, which lack proper dimension and create misleading impressions.”
“Allow me to make clear that any reductions in the budgets refer firstly to state payroll reductions from political decisions taken by the previous government in 2012, and these include the civil service in general, and secondly, to savings made the last three years as to inconsiderate expenditure,” Pamboridis said.
In 2012, he said, the state budget proposed by the government (for the health ministry) was €608.5m, while in 2013, the budget set by the same government was €598.4m.
Therefore, he said, reductions observed in the budgets as of 2014 onwards concern cutbacks in state payroll implemented by the previous government and secondly, in savings achieved by the current government by “tidying up expenditure in the health sector”.
In 2013, Pamboridis said, the budget proposed by the previous government was €598.4m, while in 2016 the ministry’s budget was €542.9m. This translates to €29m in payroll cutbacks, done by the previous government, he said, and €26.5m savings achieved by the current government.
“The difference between the budgeted and actual payroll and administrative expenditure of the health ministry between 2013 and 2016 is €13m. Likewise, the difference between budgeted and actual expenditure payroll of medical services between 2013 and 2016 is €12m,” Pamboridis said. “The remaining €4m of the payroll concern other departments of the health ministry”, while €26.5m were savings made in the ‘Subsidised Patients’ sector.
“When we talk about savings, of course, we are not talking about cutbacks or reduction in services,” he said. “We talk about rationalisation, order, about tidying up made the last three years to limit frivolous and unnecessary costs.”
He added that this was necessary “since it emerged that there is a lot of fat that burdens the public health sector. And when I say fat, I do not mean the money spent on the health of citizens or for the services provided. Fat is the money which the state squanders unfairly because of poor procedures, poor planning, poor administration, because of short-lived solutions, and non-beneficial planning,” Pamboridis said.
Meanwhile, the head of ruling DISY, Averof Neophytou, said in an announcement that opposition AKEL has in the last few weeks been “resorting to an unbridled populism on issues of public health, exploiting the suffering of patients for the sole purpose […] of obtaining votes”. He said that the main opposition party is “rehashing allegations of cuts in the health sector budgets”.
AKEL, Neophytou said, “distorts the true picture and tries to conceal its own inability for balancing and proper management of health sector economics during its own governance”.
“It is amazing”, Neophytou said, that five years later, the same number of patients are referred to the private sector, with “not one, neither two, but with €26.5m less”.