ONE BIG challenge faces Cyprus in 2019 – the implementation of Gesy. This is by far the most difficult and complex public project ever undertaken in the Republic and in 2019 its first phase will be introduced. In March workers and employers will start making monthly contributions while in June everyone will be entitled to free, primary healthcare, according to the government’s plans. Time-frames have been set in law so the government does not have the option of postponing implementation, which was always going to be a big temptation.
But the way things are going it does not look like the implementation deadlines will be met. Currently, two specialties of private doctors – paediatricians and gastroenterologists – have announced they will not be joining Gesy, while the unions of state hospital doctors, nurses and contractual staff have rejected the proposal for joining the State Health Services Organisation (Okypy) which will be in charge of the state hospitals. Okypy had demanded that the unions responded to its proposal by the last day of the year so contracts could be given to the staff by January 7, but unions said there was no way this would happen.
This is indicative of the poor preparation for Gesy. Did Okypy actually believe the doctors’ and nurses’ unions would agree to the contracts offered (which means giving up their public employee status) without negotiations aimed at maximising their members’ advantage? The government doctors’ union said the €3,000 payment offered to leave the public service was “insulting”, while nursing unions said the contracts offered were vague and failed to define the financial incentives being promised.
Are the people running Okypy unaware of how things work in Cyprus and of the power the public sector unions wield? From a negotiating point of view, Okypy’s handling is a shambles. With time running out, it will have to grant all the union demands to meet the tight deadlines because it has no time to become involved in protracted negotiations.
This month the registers will open for the private doctors to sign up with Gesy, but it is still not clear whether the Medical Association and the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) that will be running the scheme have resolved their differences. There could be other doctors’ specialties that refuse to join by then, because like state hospital doctors, who will receive a 14 per cent pay rise, they want to maximise earnings. Everyone wants to cash in on Gesy.
Meanwhile the association representing private hospitals and clinics has expressed discontent over the failure of HIO to engage in dialogue, the latter admitting it was not prepared as it had not looked into the matter. Decisions are being left to the last minute because of poor planning and lack of proper preparation.
Will everything come together by June so Gesy can start on schedule? This is the challenge now facing the government for 2019.
Happy new year!