As the numbers of those registering with the national health scheme (Gesy) steadily increase, top officials admitted on Monday they were concerned that the scheme might not be ready for its June 1 launch.
As a result, a transitional period lasting until the end of August was announced on Monday, extending the operation of existing pharmacies in hospitals and outpatient clinics, the president of the state health services organisation (Okypy), Alekos Stamatis said.
By Sunday night, some 330,000, both adults and children, had been registered with Gesy. Around 280,000 of them had chosen a general practitioner (GP) or paediatrician.
The number of GPs and paediatricians offering their services has also risen, as by Monday Gesy GPs and paediatricians numbered 331 and 72 respectively.
But with Okypy and the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) scrambling to prepare for the implementation of the first phase of Gesy in three weeks, Stamatis said on Monday that “changes are not progressing at the desired speeds.”
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou also admitted on Monday there had been delays but insisted departments and agencies have picked up pace and are at a satisfactory stage.
“Understanding, patience and persistence is necessary from the entire society,” he said.
Stamatis explained that improvements that should have been made in recent years had not taken place and this meant that changes were being made “five minutes before [the implementation of Gesy]”.
In addition to the autonomisation of public hospitals, changes that still need to be made, Stamatis said, include the renovation of a number of outpatient clinics, extra human resources and the finalisation of Gesy’s online system.
Applications for integrating 124 pharmacies, 200 pharmacists and 57 clinical laboratories into Gesy also await evaluation by the HIO.
In view of these concerns, Stamatis said that the Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou has agreed to establish a transitional period, which will run until the end of August, and where pharmacies in hospitals and outpatient clinics will remain open.
Following the transitional period, only around 15 pharmacies located in remote areas and in areas where there are no private pharmacies, will also remain open.
“We are hoping that everything will be ready for the launching of the scheme on June 1,” said senior officer of the HIO, Angelos Tropis, but added “improvements will be made constantly.”
Multiple efforts are being made simultaneously, Tropis said, including the integration of GPs and specialist doctors, clinical laboratories and pharmacies.
There have been big issues over the procedures for non-Cypriots registering with Gesy. Tropis said the HIO is also working towards resolving these issues by working with the migration department and the department of information technology services.
Tropis said the IT system is likely to be one of the biggest headaches regarding the launch of Gesy as it is a new system which beneficiaries will be using for the first time.
Ioannou, speaking to Phileleftheros, admitted that there had been delays, mainly by HIO on the information campaign both for the public and the medical community.
“During my daily contacts during the last few months with doctors but also with the public, I see there is lack of knowledge and insufficient information as to Gesy’s provisions and the changes to patients’ daily lives,” Ioannou said.
There have also been delays by the state health services organisation (Okypy), he said, “in finalising many issues concerning the new way of operation of public hospitals and health professionals working there.”
But Okypy has picked up pace and things at a satisfactory level, he said.
“I am certain that very soon we will be proud of our hospitals,” he said.