ALMOST half of the population has registered with the National Health Scheme (Gesy), Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Thursday but foreign nationals living in Cyprus say they are continuing to encounter numerous problems.
The minister was speaking after a meeting President Nicos Anastasiades chaired where he was briefed by the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) and the state health services organisation (Okypy) on progress and preparations at public hospitals.
“Two weeks before the implementation of this grand scheme, I believe we are at a promising path,” the minister said. As regards the registrations of family doctors and paediatricians, the numbers are “very satisfactory” he said.
“Registration of beneficiaries continues, almost 400,000 people have registered, which half the population,” Ioannou said.
But many foreign nationals said they have not been able to get past obtaining a user name and a password citing a number of different reasons.
Those with an MEU3 – which is a permanent residence permit – said they registered without any problems, but those who have been living in Cyprus for many years but don’t have a Republic of Cyprus ID or an MEU3, say they cannot register.
Some cite lack of cooperation between government departments and lack of timely information which led to delays, causing them to lose the opportunity to register with the GP they wanted since their lists close after reaching the maximum number of patients.
For Joanna Palmer, a British national living and working in Cyprus for the past 31 years who has been paying social insurance and taxes, the problem is that when she had to get an MEU1 which is a registration after her old-style Cypriot ID was no longer valid, authorities did not update her social insurance records to include her Alien Registration Certificate (ARC).
When she tried to register, the system said she needed an MEU3 but when she called the Gesy hotline she was told she could still register with the MEU1 but she needed to have her social insurance contributions transferred from her old ID number to her ARC.
“They (authorities) did not tell me and I knew nothing about it until now,” she said. Palmer said she would go to the social insurance office to sort it out but this delay, she said, caused her to lose two GPs she wanted to register with.
Another British woman living in Cyprus for over 30 years and married to a Cypriot, said in a letter to the Cyprus Mail that the Gesy system did not accept her ARC number and she cannot register and has been sent from one service to another while trying to figure out what to do.
“Although I have sent countless messages to them, when they do finally reply, they tell me that I have to get the immigration department to update the social insurance department, or ‘if I wish’, I can apply for Cyprus citizenship,” she said.
But the immigration department told her it was not their problem, and that the system of Gesy “should be able to recognise and accept people in my position.”
“So basically, Gesy are telling me to contact Immigration/social insurance, and they are telling me that Gesy need to fix the problem,” she said.
The organisation issued an announcement at the beginning of May informing holders of Cypriot identity cards who did not have Cypriot nationality that they had to either obtain one or obtain a residence permit of the type MEU1 or MEU3 from the Civil and Migration Department.
Many however, said they wished they knew this sooner because it could take months before authorities issue their MEU3s.
Cecile from France, also married to a Cypriot and who had been in Cyprus since 1991 and has been waiting for almost a year to get her citizenship, was told by a doctor that she could register in Gesy through her husband as long as she provides their marriage certificate.
She acknowledges that she neglected updating her expired paperwork but argues that authorities ought to have informed the public sooner so that they could have sorted out any loose ends on time.
The HIO could not be reached for comment.
The HIO said at the beginning of May that technicians were working to resolve a number of problems, and this should be done within a week but that was three weeks ago.