By Stelios Orphanides
Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said that unless public hospitals gain complete administrative and financial autonomy, the national healthcare scheme (NHS), a reform included on the agenda of four governments and widely known by its Greek acronym GESY, cannot be implemented.
“Nobody will be in a position to answer the question over how much the GESY will cost and how it will work, unless one sees how hospitals operate as administratively and financially independent corporations,” said Georgiades who was commenting on Monday on state radio CyBC.
The implementation of GESY, which aims at curbing the increase in healthcare costs, could also help address chronic problems plaguing public hospitals, including long waiting lists, caused by their operating hours, similar to those of the public service, the finance minister said.
In order to illustrate the limitations caused by the public hospitals’ operating hours, the finance minister cited a report by former auditor-general and current governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus, Chrystalla Georghadji on the acquisition and operation of “expensive” magnetic resonance imaging equipment at the Nicosia general hospital.
For a number of years following of its acquisition, there were no waiting lists for patients as the company that sold it, was also operating the MRI equipment and its use was not restricted to the operating hours of hospitals, Georgiades said. Immediately after the operation of the equipment became a responsibility of the hospital, waiting lists were formed.
“The example highlights where the problem is,” Georgiades said. “I don’t think that the private company that operated the MRI equipment had more staff. It managed its staff in such a way that they didn’t all have to work in the morning as happens in the public sector”.
Georgiades’s comments came three days after President Nicos Anastasiades said that he felt misled about the situation in public hospitals and instructed Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis, the ministry’s permanent secretary and the head of the ministry’s medical services, to submit a detailed organisational chart and indicate areas in which public hospitals are understaffed.