The biggest challenge facing Cyprus in 2020 is the introduction of the second stage of the national health scheme Gesy. This is scheduled to happen in June, but many questions will have to be addressed effectively in the next five months if the problems are to be kept to a minimum so as not to jeopardise the whole project.
In June in-patient care is set to be introduced, but many private hospitals and clinics, the participation of which is vital for the system to be able cope with patient needs, are still considering the proposal made to them by Gesy administrator the HIO (Health Insurance Organisation). A response to the proposal is expected to be ready in the next few weeks, but there is no guarantee it will be positive.
What happens if the majority of the private hospitals insist on an improved reward system? Would the HIO offer extra amounts of cash as it had done to persuade doctors to join the system? Would it be able to afford the higher bill, considering it would have to stay within budget? If it fails to reach agreement with most of the private hospitals, because of budgetary restrictions, is there a viable Plan B?
Sadly, there is not even any data to make realistic pricing proposals as state hospitals, which are monuments to waste, inefficiency and restrictive work practices, cannot be used for comparison purposes as their services have never been costed. If they were, private hospitals would be entitled to seek higher rewards for operations because state hospitals have very high operating costs. And these could get even higher if the government doctors’ demand for doubling their pay is satisfied; strikes are on the cards.
While these matters have to be tackled urgently, and without going over budget, there is also much that can be done to change the attitudes both of the health providers and patients. President Anastasiades must set an agenda making it clear that Gesy should not be seen as a cash cow by its participants and speak about the need for small sacrifices for the benefit of society. If party leaders did the same, instead of using Gesy to score points against the government, the confrontations over money could be reduced, if not eliminated.
Pubic appeals should also be made to people to stop abusing the scheme, because it is free, as has been the case in the last six months. They should be made to understand that demanding blood tests, MRI scans etc with no real reason would lead to the downgrading of the service or the collapse of the system, something nobody wants.
Despite the inevitable mistakes, the implementation of the first stage of Gesy has been a resounding success, but the second stage will be more difficult. This is why the president should make the forging of a united political front to assist the implementation of the second stage his priority. If the parties are united working for the same objective, the chances of achieving a properly functioning and viable healthcare system in 2020 would be greatly increased.
Happy New Year.