THE BEST that can be said of Gesy so far is that it is a work in progress and people should show some patience until all the weaknesses that have been encountered are dealt with. For instance, drug shortages experienced by private chemists would be overcome, it was reported on Wednesday, by the updating of the software program and by the delivery of drugs from state hospital pharmacies, where more than adequate supplies supposedly exist.
Apart from the software system, another reason for the shortages could be that personal doctors are over-prescribing drugs, something noted at a meeting of the health minister with drug importers on Wednesday. Protocols are currently being prepared, stipulating what drugs a personal doctor would be able to write prescriptions for, something that shows the problem of over-prescribing exists. Considering over-prescribing drugs was a problem when people had to pay the full price, the situation was bound to become worse now medication is free of charge.
This is just one of the abuses that are inherent in free healthcare. Another, which we reported in the past, is the sudden spike in demand for blood tests, MRI scans and other tests which personal doctors seem to be signing as soon as a patient asks for it because these are free. Of course, they are not free, because the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) pays for them and the bill might be significantly higher than what had been budgeted. The same applies to drugs.
All this stems from a sense of entitlement of patients, most of whom are contributing a part of their wage every month and demand to have every healthcare request satisfied, regardless of whether it is justified or not. Personal doctors might also feel under pressure to sign off the tests when a patient insists on them. Add this to the extortionate annual fees that are being paid to personal doctors and the subsidisation of state hospitals and question marks about the viability of Gesy immediately arise. There is also huge pressure to increase the salaries of hospital doctors as they are being paid much less than personal doctors.
The finances should be the primary concern of the HIO, Okypy and the health ministry, which is why stopping abuses of the system must be the number one priority. If the Gesy ends up with a massive deficit after a year of operation, before in-hospital care is even introduced what will the government do? We believe much more attention must be given to the finances of the scheme if it is to have a viable, long-term future.