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Our View: The health minister has been handed a Herculean task

Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis

HEALTH Minister Giorgos Pamboridis may have to give up sleeping in the next four weeks in order to meet the deadline he had been set by President Anastasiades at Tuesday’s Council of Ministers’ meeting. By July 15 Pamboridis has to prepare a bill setting the legal framework for the autonomy of the hospitals, a prerequisite for the introduction of the elusive national health scheme.

The government wants the complete financial and administrative autonomy of each hospital which would become an independent legal entity, with its own budget, and run by a board of directors. In the four weeks he has been given, Pamboridis would have to negotiate with the doctors’ and nurses’ unions as well as the other stakeholders, calculate costs for hospital services, which the ministry has failed to do, despite trying, for the last eight years and then process all the information in order to draft a legal framework.

This can only be taken as a joke, given the way things work in Cyprus. Does Anastasiades seriously think that the unions would give their consent to the autonomy of the hospitals? Yesterday morning the head of the government doctors’ union PASYKI vetoed the idea of autonomous hospitals insisting these should remain under the authority of the health ministry. Is Pamboridis expected to persuade the unions to accept the autonomy of hospitals when they see the current regime as the only guarantee of their work privileges?

As we know, everything in Cyprus must be the result of consensus, which in effect means that unions always have the final say. Pamboridis’ predecessor was forced to resign when he clashed with the doctors’ union and found that the president had sided with the latter. What would happen over the next four weeks that would make the unions agree to the autonomy framework? Nothing will be done if the government wants the dreaded consensus.

All we can expect in the next four weeks is for the vacancies for 28 doctors to be advertised so that there is less public pressure on the government but we will have to wait a bit longer for the legal framework for the autonomy of the hospitals. Unless Pamboridis decides to prepare it without securing the consent of the unions, in which case he would face not only the criticism of the opposition parties but probably that of the president. There will never be a national health scheme if the way its operation is made subject to the approval of the unions.


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