State doctors are fleeing public healthcare to join the National Health Scheme (Gesy), which is offering attractive annual earnings and other incentives, according to Sotiris Koumas, head of the state doctors’ union, Pasyki on Tuesday, who said that public hospitals are failing to secure replacement doctors.
Current earnings of state doctors amount to €65,000 annually. Additionally, under Gesy terms they will receive €10 per year for each registered patient, so if a doctor has 1,300 patients annual income will rise to €78,000.
According to the proposal by the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) under Gesy GPs with 1,300 registered patients will make €135,000 annually.
Though under Gesy private GPs will be required to shoulder the operating cost of their medical practice, the HIO has offered those willing to set up joint medical offices attractive incentives.
“Due to the general conditions doctors face at public hospitals, it was inevitable” that there would be a wave of doctors wishing to transfer to Gesy, Koumas said.
So far, three doctors – two pathologists and one General Practitioner (GP) – have submitted their resignation from the Limassol general hospital in order to join Gesy as private GPs.
The Health Ministry did nothing to stop the doctors from leaving, and did nothing to replace them after they left, the union of temporary and contract doctors (Pasesi) said on Tuesday, adding that the organisation of state health services (Okypy) is not yet ready with contracts to begin incorporating doctors into Gesy.
On Tuesday, one ward of the Polis Chrysochous general hospital was shut down after the resignation of one doctor, who left the hospital enough time to find a replacement but it failed to do so, leading to a shortage of staff to cover shifts.
Polis Chysochous mayor Yiotis Papachristofi told state broadcaster CyBC that “the A&E and outpatient clinics are working as normal,” though for all hospital wards to function, all shifts must be covered which is not possible with the current number of staff.
“Patients in the closed ward have been transferred to the Paphos general hospital until a doctor can be found to restore operation in the wards,” Papachristofi said.
The Polis Chrysochous general hospital covers the needs of around 20 remote communities on the west coast of the island.
The executive director of the Limassol and Paphos general hospitals, Christos Nikolaou said on Tuesday that the situation is under control, adding that it was inevitable that some state doctors would choose to transfer to Gesy.
Gaps in state hospital staff will be filled in the coming days, he said, while the needs of the Polis Chrysochous hospital were being covered on Tuesday by a Paphos general hospital doctor, with a more permanent solution to be found soon.
All state doctors who are eligible to register as GPs within Gesy have been sent an expression of interest invitation by the HIO, with Pasyki initially reacting to the consequent disruption caused in public hospital A&Es, where the majority of doctors have GP training.
For the launch of Gesy in June, the HIO has decided to appoint the 140 doctors currently practicing in outpatient clinics as GPs.
Incentives have also been offered by the HIO to the pharmacists and clinical laboratory scientists associations for their participation in Gesy, who are currently in the process of evaluating the proposals and setting their conditions.
Head of the pharmacists association Eleni Isseyek said local assemblies will be held to discuss participation in Gesy though the deliberation procedure with the HIO must be finalised by the end of February.
“Pharmacists must be in possession of the lists of medicine that will be included in Gesy at least three months before it is launched in order to prepare accordingly,” Isseyek said.
Meanwhile, the medical society of anaesthesiologists joined the long list of medical societies opposing Gesy as it called on its members on Tuesday to refrain from participating.
The anaesthesiologists expressed their deep disappointment over the fact they were not called on to participate in the planning stage of Gesy and have been left in the dark regarding the second phase of Gesy which will include inpatient care, which their medical speciality is mainly concerned with.
“The Health Ministry is keeping its hands clean by letting problems be solved by a problematic organisation (Okypy),” the society for anaethesiologists said, adding that “no one has explained how public hospitals, which were supposed to be the backbone of Gesy, will be able to function.”