The rolls were opened on Monday for specialist doctors wishing to register with the National Health Scheme (Gesy), as the launch date for the scheme drew ever closer.
Thomas Antoniou, head of the Health Insurance Organisation, said enrolment was open to specialists either as individuals or as doctors providing healthcare on behalf of others.
Antoniou said he did not expect many physicians to enrol on the first day, since the registry for specialists will be open for three months, that is, until the official roll-out of Gesy.
What is important, he added, is that the state is proceeding according to the timetable.
From the beginning of the year, the financial and administrative supervision of state hospitals has been transferred from the health ministry to the Organisation of State Health Services (Okypy).
Okypy is tasked with the management, control, supervision and development of public hospitals and primary health care centres. State hospital autonomy is a crucial aspect of the implementation of the National Health Scheme.
As part of the transition, state doctors were transferred from their current employment as health ministry civil servants to Okypy. As with all other health professionals, they will be given employment contracts on Okypy terms. If they do not wish to change their present employment status, they can ask to be seconded to Okyy as civil servants.
With their posting or transfer to Okypy, doctors and medical staff are offered contracts. As an incentive, those state doctors who opt to sign three-year contracts will instantly see a 14 per cent pay raise.
The transition to Gesy has been a bumpy ride, with one after another professional association in the private sector declining to join the scheme, citing concerns over pay and job security.
The refusal to participate has raised concerns over a shortage of doctors once Gesy goes live in June this year.
The government has tried to put on a brave face. Efi Kammitsi, deputy head of the HIO, said over the weekend that, to date, more than 200 general practitioners have enrolled with Gesy. This included a small number of paediatricians.
It was a highly satisfactory number, she noted, given that the rolls for GPs were opened only a month ago.
So far, state doctors have not registered en masse, but once this occurs the numbers are expected to swell, Kammitsi said.
In a statement, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou reiterated that the government is determined to press on with the scheme.
Via a decision published in the government gazette last week, the health ministry expanded the budget of Okypy so that it can pay for an extra 303 positions.
These are broken down as follows: 33 specialists in various fields; 60 general-practice nurses; 40 administrative staff; and 170 health carers.
According to Prodromou, once state hospitals are rendered financially and administratively autonomous under Gesy, they will have triple the funds they currently have for equipment.
The revised Okypy budget also provides for funds for creating an ICU at Makarios Hospital, a haemodialysis unit at Paphos general hospital, and expansion of certain units at Limassol general hospital.
Work on these units is slated to get underway in September.
In addition, in March or April work will begin on opening a first-aid unit as well as a pulmonary unit at Kyperounda hospital.
Meanwhile contributions to Gesy will begin as of March 1. In the first phase (March 2019 to March 2020) the contributions are as follows: employees 1.70 per cent; employers 1.85 per cent; self-employed 2.55 per cent; pensioners 1.70 per cent; state officials 1.70 per cent; natural persons or legal entities responsible for paying an official’s salary 1.85 per cent; rentiers 1.70 per cent; Consolidated Fund of the Republic 1.65 per cent.
Contribution rates will go up in the second phase, starting from March 2020.