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Our View: Is rift between minister and doctors too deep to fix?

Accusing Health Minister Constantinos of forging the document is indicative of how the situation has got out of hand

EVERY WEEK we bear witness to a new public row about the national health scheme, Gesy. The latest, over the alleged submission by the Cyprus Medical Association (CyMA) of a document containing a mediation proposal that could have supposedly encouraged private doctors to join the scheme, has triggered the sort of nasty row that is more often associated with political party squabbling during elections. It is certainly not the type of behaviour we have come to expect from doctors who in general tend to be more civilised than politicians.

The vice president of CyMA Dr Marios Karaiskakis asked on a radio show to comment on the proposal that was labeled a ‘memorandum of understanding’, insisted that it did not exist and accused Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou of “writing it, signing it and submitting to the Health Insurance Organisation as if it were from CyMA”. In short, he claimed the minister had forged the document and stuck to his story when challenged by the show’s presenter. Ioannou rejected these claims and reserved the right to take legal action against the doctor.

The CyMA board denied any knowledge of the document, while it was attacked by some members of acting secretly and keeping them in the dark. It also adopted a hard line, saying it would agree to new negotiations only if there was a genuine will on the part of authorities to discuss all the demands of the association’s AGM. There is fanaticism in the exchanges, rationality having been dispensed with some time ago as the two sides dig in their heels.

Accusing the minister of forging a document was unacceptable, indicative of how the situation has got out of hand. But the ministry and HIO were also playing communications games by leaking the document, which was drafted by some private doctors, on their own initiative and suggesting it was a ‘memorandum of understanding’ submitted by CyMA. The only thing this action achieved was to split the doctors and encourage CyMA to take a harder line.  It probably also won the HIO a few more points in its ongoing publicity war with the doctors, but is this how the deep rift that has been created will be overcome?

Perhaps the ministry has decided that the only way forward is to split the private doctors and thus weaken CyMA’s opposition to Gesy, but if this is the case, it also carries the risk of shattering any remaining hope of a compromise being reached. The exchanges we have witnessed in the last couple of days suggest this may have already happened.

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