Cyprus Mail

Social groups unite to push for NHS

Nicosia general hospital

Workers’ unions and the groups making up the Social Alliance initiative who want to see the National Health Scheme(NHS) implemented, will not accept any deviations from the framework agreed between the president and political parties, the head of SEK union Andreas Matsas said on Thursday.

The group, which is consists of Disy affiliated SEK union, Akel affiliated PEO, Edek affiliated Deok, civil servants’ union Pasydy, teacher unions Poed and Oltek and patients’ and consumers’ associations, met with Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis, to discuss the latest development as regards the implementation of the NHS.

According to Matsas, who spoke on Thursday on state broadcaster CyBC radio, this is probably the first time that so many social groups got together with the sole goal the implementation of the NHS.

“Society is battling for the implementation of a social vision as regards the NHS, on the basis of what has been agreed on by President Nicos Anastasiades and political parties,” Matsas said. “We believe that there is a clear decision on the basis of a single-payer scheme”.

The groups, he said, would not accept any deviations from this, as the NHS was not designed randomly, but following a number of studies.

“Based on the situation in Cypriot society and the economy and the state of the existing health system, the need arises for the creation of a single-payer NHS,” Matsas said.

He added that the groups were calling on parliament to promote the two bills to the plenum. Matsas stressed the importance of plans concerning the NHS to proceed as is, as since 2001 when the law on the NHS was voted, there have always been obstacles.

“The bill was voted in 2001 following a decade of discussions, and since then we are trying to reach an agreement on the basis of which, the NHS will be based on. There must not be a reversal”.

The House health committee concluded late last month discussion on the bill rendering state hospitals financially and administratively autonomous, which is a pre-requisite of the NHS, and is set to begin deliberations on a second bill amending some provisions of the original NHS framework with the aim for both bills to be tabled simultaneously and forwarded to the plenum for a vote.

The goal is for a public organisation to be set up by June 2017 which will oversee hospital autonomy, while June 2020 was the final date set for the full implementation of the NHS.

A new crisis is on the way however, as unions, following statements of the Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEV), on equal contributions to the NHS fund, said they did not in any way accept nor agree to such a thing.

On Wednesday, the head of OEV, Michalis Antoniou, said that after a meeting with the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO), they agreed on equal contribution of employers and workers to the NHS fund.  The head of HIO, Thomas Antoniou, said that the existing suggestion calls for a 2.85 per cent contribution each by employers and workers and for a 4.55 per cent government contribution.

Matsas said that unions have not quite agreed on equal contribution of workers and employers as regards the NHS fund, but that this issue should not get in the way of the overall goal which is the implementation of the new health scheme.

PEO and Deok said in their separate announcements that the analogy should be that provided in the 2001 law. Deok said it was unfair for the workers, whose contribution is now at 2per cent, to have a bigger increase from the employers. Employers’ contribution is currently at 2,55per cent.

In his latest annual report, released this week, the auditor-general said that total expenses concerning the implementation of the NHS between 2003 when the HIO was founded, until last year reached €37,5m, of which €10,6m was for consulting services. An additional €6,7m was spent by the health ministry also for the purchase of consulting services, the report said, while the studies commissioned were not utilised.

The audit office maintains that priority was given to projects of procedural nature as regards the implementation of the NHS, instead of the materialisation of important projects such as the re-organisation and autonomy of state hospitals.

In his report the auditor-general urged the health ministry to take all those measures aiming at the implementation of the NHS “as soon as possible,” given that the initial goal to implement the NHS was in 2008 and that it is an obligation of the republic’s €10 bn bailout.

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