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Health Minister calls foul on medical association for not playing ball on Gesy

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou

By Evie Andreou

HEALTH Minister Constantinos Ioannou on Monday censured the medical association (CyMA) after it emerged it had urged members not to participate in a survey carried out by the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) citing concerns it might harm ongoing negotiations with the state agency on their fees under the national health scheme (Gesy).

The HIO, which is tasked with administering the fund set up to finance Gesy, is currently in consultations with CyMA on doctors’ pay under the proposed health system.

CyMA last week sent its members a letter urging them not to respond to the request from the HIO to participate in a survey in which there are questions “that have not yet been made clear” in negotiations between doctors and the insurance organisation.

The survey was aimed at helping the HIO prepare its communication strategy for the public, and health professionals about Gesy.

CyMA said in its letter it had emerged that the Gesy budget was at a deficit “and therefore, the compensation of our members will be lower than existing ones”.

It also said that it was expected the workload of doctors would increase but without a corresponding pay raise.

CyMA urged its members “to refrain from actions that may harm our negotiating power”. This, it said could also lead to dividing tendencies between scientific companies and their members in their efforts to claim a larger piece from the overall budget, with visible risk the worsening of medical fees both at inpatient and outpatient level.

It urged its members to support the effort of the CyMA’s leadership and pledged to present to them, after the completion of the negotiations, a detailed analysis on issues of political economy of health.

Ioannou said he did not agree with the action by CyMA.

“I hope that all obstacles will be overcome, because, what we observe as ministry, is that efforts are being made by the HIO to which there is currently no response from CyMA,” he said.

He said that, if asked, he was ready to mediate between the two organisations.

The head of the HIO, Thomas Antoniou, said that CyMA’s action was “incomprehensible”.

“We will definitely ask explanations from CyMA,” Antoniou said. He added that, as part of the HIO’s task of informing the public, “it would be wrong on our part not to also ask CyMA”.

“We do not understand how this would prevent consultations between us or how it makes CyMA’s negotiating position more difficult,” Antoniou said.

In an announcement later in the day, CyMA said it was “with regret” they found themselves “targeted yet again” and being presented by some media as “saboteurs” of health reform.

It said that it was the association’s right and obligation to “warn, advise and inform” its members on Gesy and other issues that concern them and that it was unthinkable that some were using an internally circulated document aimed for better coordination as regards Gesy consultations to “draw arbitrary conclusions and science-fiction scenarios”.

“It seems that some are terribly concerned by the fact CyMA is truly fighting and working for the implementation of a viable Gesy”,” it said. It added that it was distorted media reports on Gesy that made consultations more difficult.

Deputy director of the HIO, Andreas Papaconstantinou, speaking on state broadcaster CyBC, admitted there were difficulties as regards consultations on doctors’ pay, but expressed optimism that they would soon reach an agreement.

The fees the HIO is proposing, he said, are very satisfactory and once consultations were completed, they would be announced. He added that doctors’ pay would not be lower than today’s levels.

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