THE head of Pasyki, the state doctors union, has again warned that public hospitals will face a dangerous shortage of specialist physicians, lured by higher pay offered in the National Health Scheme.
Soteris Koumas described the situation at public hospitals like a ‘powder keg’ ready to blow.
Over the past six months alone, he said, about 15 specialist doctors have left the public sector for the National Health Scheme, or Gesy.
Meantime, according to state doctors, conditions at the accidents and emergency department at Larnaca general hospital are ‘tragic’ as it appears that the department will be left operating with only six doctors – a number lower than even the skeleton staff.
One of the doctors working there recently decided to switch to Gesy.
The Organisation of State Health Services (Okypy) has promised to hire seven more doctors for the hospital’s A&E department within a month’s time.
According to Koumas, the problem is that state hospitals cannot compete with the remuneration packages offered by Gesy.
For example, he said, a general practitioner enrolled with Gesy – and who has 2,500 patients registered with him or her – receives an annual income of up to €270,000.
By comparison, a public sector doctor serving a similar number of patients will earn around €110,000 per annum.
The union of state doctors are complaining about the government’s delay in unveiling a package of incentives designed for them.
Koumas warned that unless the incentives are presented to public sector specialist doctors by September, there will be a massive exodus to Gesy, leaving state hospitals dangerously understaffed.
Gesy kicked off on June 1 this year. Since then, the universal healthcare system has displayed shortcomings, but officials insist these are teething problems
For instance, by the beginning of July, there were 130,000 visits to GPs, 30,254 to specialists and 87,618 prescriptions issued, out of the total 621,000 people who signed up to the national health scheme.
Three named GPs registered with Gesy told daily Phileleftheros that they are overwhelmed by the excessive demands brought to them by their patients.
They said people often come to them demanding referrals for blood tests or other examinations, where in many cases the GP himself, upon examining the patient, determines that no such actions are required.
Sometimes the patients have previously seen a doctor in the private sector, who recommended such-and-such examination or prescription. The patients then visit their designated GP with Gesy, demanding that the latter issue these referrals.
Many patients appear to be milking Gesy to the hilt, the same doctors said.
Unfortunately, they added, several Gesy doctors simply comply with their patients’ demands.
They said protocols should be put in place specifying precisely when a GP in Gesy should issue referrals to a specialist or recommend medical tests.