A probe into possible squandering of public money in state hospitals revealed that ICU numbers were inflated by using a medical mannequin to keep at least one bed occupied so that patients could be referred to the private sector for kickbacks, Simerini reported on Sunday.
The revelation came a day after two state doctors were remanded in custody for eight days. Police on Friday arrested the head of the ENT department and executive director of Nicosia general hospital Yiannakis Kyamides in connection with taking backhanders to refer patients to a private hearing clinic in Nicosia.
Authorities also detained a second doctor, Vasken Shahbenderian, who worked at the state hospital’s ENT department too. A third arrest warrant was issued against another doctor who is currently abroad and was expected to return to Cyprus in the coming week.
According to Simerini on Sunday, authorities are investigating six cases of squandering of public funds by state hospitals.
One is being investigated by the auditor-general’s office, four by the health ministry for possible disciplinary offences, and one by the police.
All probes concern cases reported the last two years.
The case being investigated by the auditor general’s office concerns an intensive care specialist doctor who was allegedly giving false information as to the occupancy of his ICU’s beds so that patients could be referred to the private sector.
The paper said the probe showed that the data he provided on the bed occupancy forms did not match that of patients’ admissions and discharges.
According to Simerini, a health ministry official discovered in October, during an inspection at the ICU in question, after they were told that the unit had reached full capacity, that one bed was occupied by a medical mannequin. The explanation given was that it was being used for training, the report said.
As to the doctor under investigation, when asked by the auditor-general’s office why he was buying services from the private sector even though his ICU was not full, he allegedly said that he wanted to have available beds in cases of emergencies.
He was also reportedly mainly using the services of one private hospital, which was buying its supplies from a pharmacy owned by his wife, Simerini said.
The daily said that until October 2015, when the health ministry upped controls, the annual cost for the use of ICU services from the private sector, amounted to approximately €3m. Following the intervention of the health ministry, referrals to private sector ICUs were reduced it said.
The other cases include an investigation into a neurosurgeon and an orthopaedic doctor, both state doctors, who were allegedly receiving bribes from patients. A paediatrician is also reportedly under investigation for allegedly acting as a middleman between private companies offering health services, and whose shareholders included immediate relatives of his. It was also reported that while he worked in the public sector, the doctor had an active role in the management of those companies and participated in their meetings and conferences.
The health ministry said on Saturday it was determined to stamp out corruption.
“We await the outcome of the investigations and … reaffirm the health ministry’s determination to stamp out all corruption,” it said in a written statement.
Such events, the ministry said, highlighted the need for full reform of the public health sector because the current system did not promote transparency or help fight corruption.
In any case, and until full reform was achieved, the ministry would continue to display zero tolerance to corruption, the statement said.