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Our View: Imperative problems with first phase of Gesy are fixed soon

A large gathering of all Gesy stakeholders, the health minister and party leaders, called by the House president, is scheduled to take place on Friday. This is more likely to be a talking shop rather than a forum for serious debate given the large number of people attending but it is still an acknowledgement that the national health scheme needs fixing if it is to have a chance of eventually becoming viable.

There will be many more complex issues to address when it enters its second phase in June, covering inpatient care, but it is imperative that the problems of the first phase are addressed and resolved before then. Everyone has finally realised that the extremely high earning potential offered to family doctors in order to persuade doctors to sign up to the scheme was a mistake. It has caused dozens of doctors to quit state hospitals in order to work for Gesy and double or triple their earnings.

This in turn has caused staff shortages at the hospitals and the A&E departments despite the extra money offered. Worse still, it sparked the militancy of the government doctors’ union Pasyki which is demanding that a doctor’s monthly pay was doubled. The union dismissed an offer from Okypy, the state health services, of a percentage of the revenue from visits, which would amount to an extra €1,000 per month as a “disincentive” for the government doctors and vowed more strikes after the holidays.

Okypy should let them go ahead because the government doctors are in a weak position. Doctors have been hired to cover the needs of most hospitals in the last month, not as public employees but on contracts. If more hospital doctors leave to join Gesy, the rewards of personal doctors will keep falling as patients will be able to join the newcomers. Eventually, the government doctors will be happy to stay at the hospitals, which guarantee job security, paid holidays, retirement bonus and big pensions on the salaries they are currently receiving. Even the specialists of Gesy have seen the unit of payment go down as more doctors have signed up.

The market will eventually take care of the distortions caused by the high rewards offered to GPs. As their earnings fall so will the envy of the government doctors who, like true public employees want the best of both worlds, job security, big benefits, short working hours and the type of wages earned by GPs who enjoy none of the former. It should be made clear to them that Okypy will not change its offer.

Friday’s meeting will have served a good purpose if it comes out with a declaration backed by all parties warning government doctors that their pay demands are threatening the future of the state hospitals and Gesy itself.



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