Government doctors and nurses complained on Monday that they were being kept in the dark about two draft bills relating to the adoption of a full-fledged National Health System (NHS).
The two bills – more will follow later – relate to reforms rendering state hospitals administratively and financially autonomous, as well as provisions of the NHS.
But both state doctors and nurses said they had not seen the actual bills, despite them having been submitted to parliament – hinting that the government was trying to pull a fast one on them.
The two items were approved by the cabinet only last Friday.
Speaking to the state broadcaster, Panagiotis Georgiou, general secretary of nursing union Pasyno, moreover questioned assurances given about the viability of the NHS.
He said the union had not obtained a report on the implementation of the NHS compiled by consulting firm McKinsey & Co, despite repeatedly asking to see it.
The Health Insurance Organisation (HIS), which commissioned McKinsey to carry out the study, insists that the NHS will be viable.
According to the HIS, the report “describes in detail all steps necessary for the implementation of the National Health System as well as the transition from the existing health system already in place to the new system.”
Georgiou said their primary concern was the status of state nurses during the transition, a topic which has not been discussed yet.
But he conceded that Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis promised them that these issues would be discussed at length with the unions during October.
The employment status of people employed in public healthcare are to be regulated via legislative ordinances accompanying the NHS bills. The ordinances have yet to be drafted.
Likewise Agathocles Christofides, head of the doctors branch of the Pasydy civil servants union, said they were unaware of the details of the two NHS bills.
And he spoke of confusion surrounding the proposed new system, which will purportedly offer universal coverage.
“If you ask each of the political parties, they’ll give you seven different explanations of what the NHS is,” Christofides remarked.
Given that they are civil servants and therefore their employment conditions cannot be altered, state doctors and nursing staff wonder how the transition to the NHS will take place.
That is because once the new system is operational, existing doctors and nurses can choose to opt in or opt out (with an exit package), but they cannot be sacked. Meanwhile, new healthcare professionals will be entering the industry, post-NHS.
This, they argue, will create two rungs of healthcare professionals, and thus a full transition to the NHS can only be achieved once all currently serving staff have retired.
Under the terms of its bailout deal, Cyprus was supposed to offer a national healthcare scheme by 2015. A major reason for the delay is that the autonomy of state hospitals, which is a prerequisite of the NHS, is still pending.
The health minister stated recently that the ultimate date for the full implementation of the NHS is June 1, 2020. According to the roadmap, by June 2017 a public organisation will be set up which will oversee hospital autonomy, and by June 2019 outpatient care will be introduced.