President Nicos Anastasiades on Friday expressed optimism that the majority of private doctors would join the National Health Scheme (Gesy), despite the fact the Cyprus Medical Association (CyMA) has called on its members not to back the health scheme.
CyMA’s head described those who did otherwise would be “apostates”.
However, Anastasiades said the majority of the medical world honours the Hippocratic oath and had “social sensitivities.”
He was responding to questions from the press concerning CyMA’s decision not back Gesy by calling on its members not to join.
“I want to believe that the overwhelming majority of doctors, through the dialogue we have started, will decide to participate, because I believe that the overwhelming majority of doctors put above all what the Hippocratic oath dictates,” Anastasiades said.
“That is why, beyond the will of the government, the political world and the people, I am confident that the sense of responsibility of the doctors of Cyprus will allow for the implementation [of Gesy] just as it has been set.”
Gesy, Anastasiades said, “will be implemented.”
The leadership of CyMA, that represents some 40 medical societies, urged its members following a long meeting on Thursday night not to join Gesy. The association’s main grievances are two: they want the flexibility of being able to enter into private practice within Gesy, and are calling for an increase in the budget due to concerns over remuneration. The government has said no to both demands.
The announcement however, was marred by a message sent by the head of CyMA, Petros Agathangelou this week to the association’s members whereby he reportedly stated that he could not imagine there would be doctors who would “assume the role of an apostate” by publicly siding with the government and thus undermining the efforts of their colleagues to safeguard their dignity.
“Something like that would be immoral,” said the letter published in the media.
The head of CyMA’s ethics committee, Vasos Economou said on Friday that the matter had already been discussed internally.
“This incident should have been avoided. According to some, these were unfortunate expressions,” Economou told state broadcaster CyBC, adding that this was a “family issue” and would not be discussed publicly nor it would break the unity of the CyMA leadership.
“We did not flog him [Agathangelou]. We expressed our opinion,” he said.
Economou said that, as regards CyMA’s decision on Gesy, it was up to each doctor to decide “according to their adequacy, conscience, ethics, and socioeconomic situation if they would join or not.”
He said that CyMA was not against Gesy but its failure. “We don’t believe that this proposed scheme could work.”
Later in the day, two more medical societies, gynecologists and obstetricians and surgeons, called on their members not to join Gesy.
The surgical society advised its members not to join Gesy at the moment and that they were ready to dialogue with the government. The group said they would join only if “convinced with evidence of the safe provision of healthcare to our patients.”
But not all private doctors agree with CyMA.
Former chairman of CyMA, Giorgos Potamitis, urged the leadership of the medical association “even at the eleventh hour, to convince doctors to participate in the scheme,” and continue the dialogue with the government so that they can claim their demands later on.
The dialogue, Potamitis told CyBC, must continue “because there are still a number of questions left unanswered.” He said that there are gaps in the proposed scheme which doctors can help improve.
As regards the demand of CyMA for private practice, he said that this would cause chaos and that patients would bear the brunt.
“Private practice would be a utopia in a proper health scheme,” Potamitis said.
Government Spokesman, Prodromos Prodromou, said that it was doctors who would be called in a few days to express interest if they would like to work as GPs under Gesy and not their collective bodies.
The Health Insurance Organisation (HIO), as of January 21, will be accepting applications from state and private doctors who would like to register as GPs in Gesy. The expression of interest by private and state doctors to participate in seminars on how to submit their application to register as GPs is gradually increasing, he said. By Thursday noon, reportedly around 120 doctors had expressed interest.
Prodromou said that the dialogue between HIO and individual medical societies was continuing and that the authority would assess the situation after it starteddd receiving applications from doctors. Depending on the expression of interest, he said, the government and HIO would assess the best way to go about it.
“At the moment the government carries on smoothly for the implementation of Gesy,” he said, which will kick in in June with outpatient care. Inpatient care will be introduced in June 2020.
The association of private hospitals, which had announced last week it would interrupt its dialogue with HIO, has had a change of heart after receiving some data it had requested and said they were now ready to enter into consultations. The Limassol-based German Oncology Centre said this week it would like to join Gesy, following the announcement last week of the Mediterranean Hospital of Cyprus in the same district.
The oral and maxillofacial society, the association of private doctors, the vascular and endovascular surgery association, rheumatologists, intensivists, urologists, nuclear medicine physicians, ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctors, endocrinologists, paediatricians and gastroenterologists all decided not to join Gesy by last week. Cardiologists said its members would each decide individually.