Cyprus Mail

‘Shock’ over reported Gesy abuse by doctors

One private-sector cardiologist scrutinised for demanding €407,000 for five months

By Evie Andreou

State doctors’ union Pasyki expressed bewilderment on Thursday over reports that the salaries and allowances of some public-sector physicians were between €120,000 to in some cases more than €180,000 and asked for more details about how these amounts were calculated.

Reportedly around 130 doctors are being investigated. Pasyki’s reaction follows reports of leaked information sent by Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides to House Speaker Demetris Syllouris ahead of a meeting on Friday in parliament on Gesy detailing abuse one MP called ‘shocking’ on Thursday.

The information sent to Syllouris includes possible discrepancies that dispute claims made by private and state doctors. The information Michaelides submitted was obtained from the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) this week.

One private-sector cardiologist is under the microscope for demanding in total €407,000 for five months from Gesy. For this case, the HIO reportedly asked another cardiologist to investigate the possibility of system abuse, but the investigating doctor himself had asked for €148,000 for four months which also raised questions as to whether he also was abusing the system and if so, would he really be willing to confirm any discrepancies for the other physician?

Another cardiologist who raised the alarm received until the end of November €431,000 for his services, while another one reportedly requested €381,000.

The list also includes four military doctors, registered with Gesy as private doctors and who received between €10,000 and €65,000 each just for October for their services under the health scheme. It emerged that they were seeing patients while on duty as military physicians or while on sick leave.

According to a spokesman for the Audit Office Marios Petrides, the information sent to the House president was data received by the HIO due to complaints filed at the audit office for the cardiologist and the military doctors.

“It is a non-paper sent to the House president ahead of the meeting (with political parties),” Petrides told the Cyprus Mail.

“It is preliminary information that raises some concerns arising as a result of some complaints received,” he said.

Petrides said the audit office would carry out the necessary checks.

The document also includes information on state doctors, 80 of whom reportedly receive allowances that are higher than their salaries.

Two state doctors reportedly received from the beginning of the year, in salaries and allowances, until the end of November more than €180,000, another 12 received between €150,000 and €180,000 and 42 doctors got between €120,000 and €150,000.

As regards allowances only, 18 doctors reportedly received between €70,000 and €110,000 during the same period, and 210 doctors received between €80,000 and €100,000.

Another 112 doctors reportedly received between €30,000 and €40,000 in allowances and 135 received €40,000 to €70,000.

Head of Pasyki, Soteris Koumas expressed surprise and bewilderment regarding the report on state doctors’ salaries and allowances arguing that they needed to see more details and how these amounts were calculated.

Towards that end the union will seek more information from the audit office, he said.

“We don’t agree with some of these figures,” he told state broadcaster CyBC.

Koumas explained that overtime pay and the money state doctors receive as part of a pilot programme for the expansion of working hours in some clinics in state hospitals to meet increased workload are also considered as allowances.

“If, at the end of the day, it is believed that state doctors are getting paid to do nothing, this is a wrong approach,” he said.

Head of the House health committee, Disy’s Costas Constantinou, said he was shocked by the abuse of the system by doctors.

“It is unacceptable, it tarnishes the whole system and sends out the wrong messages,” he too told CyBC.

The HIO is reportedly investigating 130 doctors.

HIO deputy director Athos Tsinontides said that most cases under investigation had been spotted after the filing in the system of excessive demands.

He said no penalties have been imposed as yet but there has been a rejection of some demands submitted by doctors for medical treatments deemed unnecessary by the HIO

Tsinontides said that when it is deemed that doctors’ demands are excessive, a committee of other doctors is asked for their opinion but they do not know who they are investigating.

He added, however, that many doctors do work many hours, until very late in the evening, due to the increased demand after the long wait by patients for the introduction of Gesy.

A source within the health ministry said that these cases were already known to them and under investigation.

According to the same source, when Gesy was launched six months ago, there were around only 100 doctors signed up and they had an enormous workload.

The meeting at the House was prompted after talks of changes to streamline Gesy was tabled at the plenum during a discussion last week of the state budget for next year.

According to reports the majority of parliamentary parties, Disy, Diko and Edek are mulling changes to Gesy aimed at streamlining the system and ensuring its viability.

These changes reportedly concern a new framework for GPs’ pay, the abolition of the €25 patients are called to pay if they visit specialists without a referral from their GPs, and the possibility of beneficiaries choosing to go to doctors not within Gesy, to be able to still get the drugs prescribed to them by those physicians from Gesy pharmacies.

Akel however already declared it would not participate in any discussion on changes to Gesy’s philosophy.

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