Since the coronavirus outbreak in March, the health ministry has spent €45.4 million on virus related expenditures, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said Monday while presenting his ministry’s budget for 2021.
He said state hospitals are being reconfigured to care for more coronavirus patients, with private healthcare facilities placed on standby should the need arise.
His comments came as state hospitals made room to take in Covid-19 patients so as to take some pressure off the Famagusta general hospital – the referral facility for coronavirus.
Later in the evening the scientific advisory team on Covid-19 was scheduled to meet with President Nicos Anastasiades to review the situation and decide any extra measures as daily cases remain in the triple digits.
Speaking in parliament, Ioannou said the health ministry’s balance sheet for 2021 comes to just over €1 billion, an increase of €55 million over the current year and partly due to ongoing expenditures related to the coronavirus situation.
Regarding the state of play in the healthcare system amid the ongoing coronavirus situation, Ioannou said a plan is being rolled out readying hospitals for an uptick in admissions.
At the same time, private hospitals have been instructed to reserve contingency capacity for admitting Covid-19 patients, thus helping ease congestion in state facilities if need be.
The €45.4 million in virus-related costs have mostly gone on subsidising coronavirus tests, reimbursing private hospitals to whom Covid-19 patients are referred, and the purchase of protective gear such as masks.
According to the minister, a significant percentage of these expenditures are expected to be covered by EU structural funds.
The ministry’s total budgeted stands at €1.017 billion, corresponding to 9.63 per cent of the total government balance sheet and to 4.94 per cent of GDP.
The ministry anticipates revenues of €284 million, compared to €186 million in 2020.
By line item, the single largest increase compared to 2020 relates to the funds channeled to the state health services organisation (Okypy), which will be getting approximately €70 million more; and a €16.8 million rise in state contributions to the national health scheme (Gesy).
Line items which have seen a decrease include medical care (€7.5 million less), the purchase of medicines and vaccines (€7.16 million less), and the grant to the Bank of Cyprus Oncology Centre (€5 million less).
Regarding Gesy, Ioannou said it has demonstrably given the public more access to healthcare professionals, particularly after the inclusion of inpatient care since June 1 this year.
From that date to the present, some 28,000 operations have been carried out within Gesy.
Incorporating personal physicians into the system has helped deal with suspected and confirmed cases of the coronavirus, while the use e-prescriptions – where a patient does not need to personally visit a doctor – played a part in decongesting medical facilities, while also minimising the spread of nosocomial infection.