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Our View: should we expect a Gesy fiasco come June 1?

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou

LESS than three weeks before the introduction of the first phase of Gesy, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou has called on the public to show patience and understanding because problems were expected to arise. Speaking to Phileleftheros, he said that “as with every big change that is implemented, a period of time will be needed for the scheme to normalise and operate correctly.”

Alecos Stamatis, president of the state health services Okypy that will administer all public hospitals, said on Monday that the scheme might not be ready for its June 1 launch and admitted that changes were not moving at the required pace. He explained that changes that should have taken place in the past never materialised with the result that changes were being made “five minutes before implementation”.

None of this should come as a surprise. If anything, it is entirely predictable because public services have never been renowned for their planning and organisational abilities, which were certain to be found wanting for an ultra-complex project like a national health scheme. In fact, the three-month transitional period, that would put back full introduction to the beginning of September and which Stamatis said the minister had approved, seems rather optimistic.

Last week, it was reported that the working hours of public hospital staff had not yet been agreed while many of the existing hospital workers will retain their civil servant status, despite the fact that hospitals are supposedly be autonomous, independent organisations. Of course, turning of public hospitals into autonomous entities could take years as very little has been done by way of preparation because of disputes with unions and abjectly poor planning.

Ioannou placed some responsibility on the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) for supposedly failing to inform the public and the medical community about Gesy’s provisions, but is this really the cause for the delays? Many EU nationals still cannot register with any doctor on Gesy because of problems with the system, and doctors could reach their quota of patients by the time foreigners are able to register. Regarding drugs, the situation remains unclear, with pharmacies in hospitals to be kept open for the transitional period. But will patients be able to take drugs from private pharmacies without paying from June 1?

We had been warning for months that the HIO seemed more concerned about scoring publicity points against those private doctors who are refusing to join the scheme than working on ensuring a successful introduction of the scheme. Everyone expected there would be teething problems when the scheme was introduced, but after reading the minister’s warnings on Monday which were confirmed by the head of Okypy, things are not looking very good.

People will show patience and understanding, but not if they are faced with a fiasco of a scheme in June.

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