Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist Opinion

Gesy: the biggest state Minotaur of them all

Minister of Health George Pamporides.

The black holes of CyTA and CyBC will pale into insignificance next to the National Health Scheme

By Loucas Charalambous

THE ISSUE of the National Health Scheme (Gesy) is the biggest political scam in the history of this strange country. It is a story of a never-ending political mockery, a story that gives an accurate reflection of our state.

Whoever wishes to get a full, comprehensive picture of this state only has to take a look at the history of our Gesy. All the ineptitude, cluelessness, political demagoguery and political stupidity – the features that characterises the existence of this state – are concentrated in the lamentable story known as Gesy.

The latest act in this comedy – because it is a comedy – was staged at the presidential palace on July 21 and starred our political demagogues, all of whom were present. A few days earlier, one newspaper reported that Health Minister Giorgos Pamborides was “ready to take his own personal decisions”, in the event that the specific decision to proceed with the scheme was not taken, pointing out that the most likely scenario was the submission of his resignation for reasons of dignity. In order to avert the minister’s resignation for reasons of dignity, our political wizards unanimously took decisions, the consequences of which – if they are ever implemented – I am certain they were in no position to conceive.

There is no doubt that if these decisions are eventually implemented they will create another state Minotaur. The notorious autonomy of the hospitals according to Pamborides’ plan would create a regime like we have at EAC, CyTA, and CyBC. There will be state employees of three categories in hospitals with the unions doing their own things and the political parties having a role and interfering in the administration.

So, at the time the government, at the insistence of our international lenders, is supposed to pursue the privatisation of semi-governmental organisations, it has decided to create another such beast that will be the biggest of all. Ironically, the decision of the all-party gathering at the presidential palace came in the week in which we read in the press about the huge deficits – in excess of a hundred million euro in the CyTA and CyBC pension funds – the tab for which the taxpayer is expected to pick up.

Bearing in mind the size of the new, all-devouring beast to be created in the health sector, it is easy to understand how the black holes of CyTA and CyBC will pale into insignificance when compared to those of the new Minotaur.

The best studies conducted in relation to Gesy showed that because private health insurance was so widespread (some 150,000 have private health insurance), the grounds were conducive for a multi-insurance system, similar to that of The Netherlands which is considered the most successful of 30 health systems in developed countries. This system was evaluated as the best in terms of cost and quality as it provided the same standard of healthcare to all citizens, from the poorest to the wealthiest. It also featured a fair contribution scheme, based on each person’s means.

The July 21 decision did not have as its criterion the best possible practice. It was based on political expediency, another tactical manoeuvre by President Anastasiades. Faced with heavy criticism from all directions about the poor state of public hospitals, Anastasiades resorted to another political trick. He adopted the positions of Akel and Edek regarding Gesy because he needed a “consensual decision” in order to be spared the merciless criticism. The main criterion for the decision was not the interests of patients but the next presidential elections on which the president has firmly set his sights.

After the presidential palace meeting, Pamborides thanked the political parties and said he was optimistic that now “all issues will be resolved for good, in a way that would be beneficial to society, patients and professionals”. I suspect that he might regret thanking them when, before long, he sees them feeding the Minotaur that will most probably devour him first.

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