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Minister ‘sick and tired’ of politicking over health system

Health minister Giorgos Pamboridis

Main opposition Akel has gone back on its agreement with President Nicos Anastasiades to back the national health scheme because it has entered campaign mode for presidential elections in 2018 a bit early, Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis charged on Friday.

Speaking after a cabinet session, Pamboridis said he fully appreciates that “some have entered the campaign period, perhaps rather prematurely”.

He was commenting on a public row with Akel, which backed a statement by state doctors rejecting state-hospital financial and administrative autonomy before shoring up staffing and compensation issues.

“Healthcare reform has come to life over the last few months with everyone’s support,” Pamboridis said. “We are at the final stage of having parliament approve the government bills, and it would be unfair to the public, which has been waiting for this reform for decades, to be deprived of it because of party politicking.”

While remaining at everyone’s disposal to help find “radical or interim” solutions, Pamboridis added, he will “not accept the derailment of the whole process because of party politics”.

Earlier, Akel’s health-desk chief Athos Georgiou had told state radio that, while the party wants the introduction of a health system “eagerly”, it will not give the government a “blank cheque”.

“One of the points agreed by political leaders was that, in order to back these policies, a transition period for the reorganisation of state hospitals was necessary,” Georgiou said.

Arguing that before state hospitals can be rendered autonomous, staffing needs must be tackled, Georgiou claimed this would take “one to two years”.

“State hospitals can be governed in a transition period with modernising procedures, and dare to make changes in hospitals,” he said.

In response, Pamboridis attacked Akel for reneging on the deal it made with Anastasiades last summer, to back the effort in exchange for a single-payer system that would exclude private insurance companies.

“Akel is clearly going back on its stated position, effectively ignoring the obligation to support autonomy in exchange for a single-payer system,” the minister charged.

“When we discussed state hospitals’ day-to-day problems, I made a very important effort and we gave €3 million at first, and now we are commissioning studies that will result in more measures by June. Instead of Akel welcoming these moves, it waited for the doctors to first get these benefits and then raised union issues.”

Pamboridis warned he plans to push things to the point where “no one will be able to hide behind slogans anymore”.

“I am sick and tired of hearing ‘we are the first to support Gesy (NHS) but’ – no, if you want Gesy, the bills have been sitting at parliament for four months, go and vote for them.”

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