Since Gesy kicked off on June 1, there have been 130,584 visits to GPs, 30,254 to specialists and 87,618 prescriptions have been issued out of the total 621,000 people who signed up to the national health scheme, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Thursday.
The news conference held by the minister to assess Gesy’s first month was held against the backdrop of a strike at Limassol hospital by 150 hourly-paid workers such as cleaners, messengers and kitchen staff over understaffing, which Ioannou blamed on the state health services Okypy. He said the organisation was showing “worrying negligence in “the management and resolution of the problem which arose a few days ago”. All striking workers returned to their duties by 5pm after promises the issues would be resolved.
Speaking of Gesy in general Ioannou conceded that the rush to visit doctors and specialists during the first two weeks of the scheme resulted in problems such as unnecessary visits by patients, and a shortage of pharmaceuticals.
The results were however, positive overall, he said, despite the fact there was still a lot that needed to be done.
Ioannou said more than 621,000 beneficiaries had registered with Gesy so far while 378 GPs had joined as well as 118 paediatricians, 612 specialists, 476 pharmacies and 566 pharmacists, 125 clinical labs, 436 lab staff and scientists, and 13 radiology centres.
There have been in total 130,584 visits to GPs and 30,254 to specialists.
The minister said there was a satisfactory number of GPs, adding that on average, there was one GP for around 1,400 beneficiaries based on the number who activated their Gesy account.
As regards pharmacies, he said 87,618 prescriptions have been executed during the past month. He added that so far 1,070 pharmaceuticals were on the Gesy list and more will be added.
The minister also said that labs carried out 41,488 analyses and radiology centres served 5,609 cases.
As regards medical procedures covered by Gesy, Ioannou said that the lists for specialists have been reviewed for the third time and new ones have been added.
After listing the positives, the minister referred to the problem faced such the abuse of the system by beneficiaries with unnecessary visits to GPs and over-prescriptions of drugs which has also led to shortages.
According to Ioannou, especially during the first two weeks Gesy was introduced, the system was not properly used by beneficiaries due to insufficient information but also to the enormous volume of information that was not possible to be ingested at once.
The increased demand for services caused some problems to GPs but also delays in some cases.
During the past two weeks however, demand subsided since vulnerable population groups such as patients with chronic diseases and the elderly have been served by their GPs.
Another problem was over-prescriptions of drugs which led to drugs shortages, the minister said. “For this reason, some protocols have been introduced restricting over-prescriptions,” Ioannou said.
He added that to tackle the shortage problem, instructions have been given for the importers of pharmaceuticals to be given drugs that are adequately stocked in the state pharmacy warehouses to distribute to private hospitals.
“To protect the system, as of this month, protocols and restrictions will be in place both on patient referrals and on drugs’ over-prescriptions,” he said.
He also called on members of the public to use the Gesy services only when necessary.
The minister also said there have been so far two upgrades to the Gesy software following suggestions and comments by the healthcare professionals who are using it.
He also congratulated the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) for their prompt response to the problems presented. “We must all keep in mind that Gesy, as a living organism, will be constantly improved,” he said.
As regards private hospitals, the minister said that the government will invite them to dialogue to present to them their proposals, which include subsidies and incentives to help them upgrade their infrastructure and services to be able, if they wish to, to join Gesy.
“Our aim is to have bridged our differences by June 1, 2020 (when inpatient care is introduced) so that private hospitals incorporate their services in Gesy,” the minister said. He added that the ministry also wants this to be done without any changes to the Gesy philosophy.
The minister admitted that a lot still needs to be done for the system to reach the maximum of its potential and that everyone is responsible for its continuation.