Ruling party Disy on Tuesday sought to dispel the notion that it is looking to meddle with the setup of the General Healthcare System (Gesy), saying it only wants to fix certain flaws – such as ensuring that GPs are paid according to the services they actually provide rather than how many patients they have enrolled with them on paper.
Disy boss Averof Neophytou spoke of certain individuals within Gesy that try to milk the system for all it’s worth, ultimately to the detriment of patients.
“Some bad practices – GPs with thousands of patients registered with them, patients without a nurse, without an office assistant, without providing service – but still at the end of the month they get their salary… this is not the scheme we voted for,” Neophytou remarked.
Under Gesy, the main payment method of a personal doctor (GP) is the per capita fee for each beneficiary enrolled on his/her list. Personal doctors are allowed a patient quota of 2,500. This has led to suspicions that some providers abuse the system by enrolling as many patients with them as possible but are then unable to serve them in a timely fashion.
Neophytou’s comments came after a meeting with head of the federation of Cyprus patients’ associations Marios Kouloumas.
For his part, Kouloumas said he was pleased to discover he and Neophytou were in complete agreement – namely that the philosophy of Gesy will remain intact, but that certain shenanigans within the system must be cracked down on.
Just hours earlier, Kouloumas had vowed on Twitter that any attempt to change the law governing Gesy would happen “over my dead body.”
Former health ministers Giorgos Pamboridis and Constantinos Ioannou also said they would oppose any moves to meddle with Gesy.
What set off the online row were comments by Disy MP Harris Georgiades, who a day earlier – during a discussion of the health ministry’s budget in parliament – suggested that certain changes were needed in the national healthcare system.
His remarks were interpreted by some as an attempt to change the workings of Gesy, triggering a knee-jerk reaction.
In a tweet on Monday, Georgiades clarified he merely meant introducing specific safeguards so that the money spent on Gesy is accounted for.
“Regarding the method of remuneration for GPs, for instance, who are now getting paid per head [per enrolled patient] we believe they should get paid for seeing patients, and not for not answering their telephone,” he posted.
However by Tuesday the controversy had acquired a momentum of its own, with main opposition Akel warning the government it would not stand for any tinkering with Gesy.
“The potential to prescribe medicines and tests by doctors not registered with Gesy, as well as the potential to circumvent GPs through a scrapping of the €25 co-pay, will not improve the healthcare system, but rather deal a killer blow to Gesy’s philosophy and architecture,” Akel said in a statement.
It added that any such proposals, if realised, would drive doctors out of Gesy and exacerbate problems with waiting lists.
Akel called on the president and the health minister to clear up the “doublespeak” and mixed signals coming from the pro-government camp.
In a similar vein, trade union SEK said politicians should leave the handling of Gesy to the technocrats and experts who know the subject.
The union cited a recent survey by the University of Nicosia, which showed that 82 per cent of Gesy beneficaries were quite satisfied with the quality of services provided.
Although there was certainly room for improvement within Gesy, SEK added, this was no time to experiment.