IT’S A GOOD thing that the first day of operation of the national health scheme Gesy falls on a Saturday. This will give its administrator, the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO), another two days to try and tackle the many technical problems relating to the IT system. Not that the two days until Monday would be enough to resolve all the problems that have been reported and ensure a smooth start of operations.
At present chemists are complaining because they have encountered difficulties with using the IT system while the list of drugs that would be prescribed to patients under Gesy has yet to be completed with many drugs still missing. As a result, they do not know what to stock. Doctors at the state hospitals say they have not become familiarised with the IT system, while their union pointed out that 39 clerical staff hired at hospitals have received no training on the system. This is not all – non-Cypriot EU nationals have been complaining for weeks because they could not register and nothing has been done.
Teams of technical staff were working non-stop, giving help and support to health providers, but as a precaution, the HIO has sent hard-copy referral and prescription forms to doctors and chemists in the event they fail to use the IT system, or it crashes. Apart from the lack of familiarity with the IT system, the union representing hospital doctors, Pasyki, has been warning about acute understaffing that would not allow doctors to see patients until 6 or 8pm. The problem is exacerbated by the small number of different specialist doctors that have signed up.
The whole thing is a chaotic mess which is indefensible given the time the HIO had to complete its preparations. It defies belief that the health providers were given no training on the IT system for the scheme, because it was completed at the last minute. In fact, everything has been last-minute despite the date for the introduction of the first phase of the scheme having been set two years ago. What has the health ministry, the HIO and Okypy, the state health services been doing in those two years?
Admittedly, Gesy is the biggest and most complex project ever undertaken by the Republic, but there was plenty of time to prepare it. The HIO has been in existence since the Papadopoulos presidency, but only managed to finalise the IT system this year. Everyone expects teething problems on the scheme’s introduction but according to Disy deputy Nicos Nouris, there “are serious problems of operational inadequacy that would cause dysfunctionality for doctors, chemists, clinical laboratories and, much more so for patients.”
The idea, repeatedly put forward by the ministry and the HIO, that problems would be solved gradually, is rather worrying and inspires little confidence. We hope they are more effective and prompt in solving problems once the scheme is introduced than they have been preparing it as we all want Gesy to succeed.