Cyprus Mail

Minister calls for ‘popular demand’ to help speed up health reforms

Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis said on Sunday that though the procedures for the reform of the health sector were in the final stages, there were still obstacles that must be overcome.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” the minister said in an interview with Phileleftheros.

“If you do not see the results then it’s not over and as we get closer to the end the more the opponents of reform intensify their efforts with various interventions,” he added.

He said all those who support the creation of the health system Gesy should remain vigilant “otherwise overall efforts for reform will be reversed”.

Pamboridis called on the public to react and press for real reforms instead of putting up with the piecemeal fixes that will never amount to real change.

“What we have today should be completely changed and it’s time to stop trying to cover problems with patchwork solutions,” he added.

People should demand the right to proper a health care system such as is available in other EU countries.

“I want to invite the world to demand that entitlement. Promoting reform must become a popular demand for it to succeed and to stop any efforts made by some to prevent change,” he added.

Pamboridis said there was no conflict with the minister of finance and argued that the bills for the autonomy of state hospitals could “if there was a will” from sides even be voted before parliament breaks for Easter next month.

“The finance minister’s job is to worry about the finances of the state. My job is to worry about the health of the public,” Pamboridis said.

Right now, he said one of the biggest issues pending was with regards to employer contributions. The Chambers of Commerce (Keve) warned last week it would not rule out withdrawing from discussions if the public service union Pasydy insisted on its demand for free healthcare for its members under Gesy.

This followed a deal two weeks ago between the government and nurses for higher wages, along with new discussions launched with state doctors for the same treatment.

“We are in a dialogue with all stakeholders,” said Pamboridis. “We note the positions of all parties and we welcome constructive debate for a consensual solution.”

He warned, it would be naive for anyone to think that the reforms would satisfy everyone. “But you can’t make an omelete without breaking eggs,” he added.

Commenting on the Pasydy demand, the minister said the law of 2001 on Gesy clearly provides for “contributions by all”. “It’s time for everyone to rise to the occasion and if some people do not want to understand this, the state must react,” he said

“In my view, the questions can be solved in two hours and the level of contributions could be fixed with a single meeting of all stakeholders, parties, trade unions and employers.”

Pamboridis dodged the question on nurses and doctors pay demands saying the effort was to remain focused on the objective, and that it was clear President Nicos Anastasiades was driving things towards that goal.

He also cited the responsibility of the political parties in relation to passing the necessary bills, and criticised segments of the media for going out of their way to slam the system and “humiliate” hospital staff

“Recently we saw some go to the hospital and videotape, which would be unthinkable in a private clinic. And in the end the whole uproar over not being able to find a health worker turned out to be becauser they were all in one place trying to save a man who risked losing his life. These things have to stop at some point. Public hospitals can not be treated like this while we are trying to reorganise, to empower and upgrade them.”

He said he and his family use the public health system in which there were some services of a very high level.

“We cannot only see the problems. We also have an obligation, as in all matters, to see the good, and to recognise the advantages. Yes, there are problems in the system, but that does not mean that we can trash all of it,” he said.

The delay in setting up the autonomy of hospitals was stalling all other reforms, he added, including the introduction of e-health and the creation of more oncology units, helping to solve the problems being faced by autistic children, and also the launching of prevention and early intervention programmes.

“There are many serious issues in the health sector that I want to work on, everyday issues concerning the public, issues that if we deal with them will raise the level of services to patients,” he said. “But whatever you embark on now will have to change with the implementation of the reforms to be consistent with Gesy,”

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