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Our View: Without improvements Gesy will collapse

Harris Georgiades caused an uproar when he said that certain changes needed to be made to Gesy

Our national health scheme, Gesy, has become untouchable. Any criticism of the way it operates – perfectly justified under the circumstances – is viewed as an attempt to alter its set-up and philosophy. Any politician that dares to suggest improvements are needed and that bad practices should be eradicated is seen as the public enemy and accused of trying to destroy the healthcare system that benefits all the people of Cyprus.

Akel invariably leads the chorus, supported by patients’ groups, newspapers and former health ministers who like to pose as the founding fathers of Gesy. It is a blinkered and dogmatic approach, based on the assumption that the scheme has attained perfection and has no room for improvement even if it has the potential to cause serious fiscal problems, a possibility mentioned by the finance minister.

Disy’s deputy leader Harris Georgiades caused an uproar on Monday during a discussion of the health ministry’s budget at the House when he said that certain changes needed to be made to Gesy. Georgiades felt obliged to explain what he meant after being targeted by the guardians of Gesy. He wanted specific safeguards to ensure the money spent was accounted for and cited the absurd practice of rewarding GPs for doing nothing – paying them by simply registering patients, some as much as €250,000 a year.

Now if the method of payment of GPs were changed, would the philosophy and structure of Gesy change? If measures were taken to control the constantly rising costs of Gesy, would it deprive people of healthcare? The state assistance to Okypy, which is in charge of public hospitals will increased by €28m to €148m in 2022, even though the plan was for the amount to decrease every year. And this is in addition to the €265.7m the state pays public employees ‘on secondment at public hospitals.

Meanwhile, there have been countless reports of abuses of the system by doctors and private hospitals/clinics, which put patients under the knife because it maximises the daily rate they are paid per bed. And we hear only about the cases the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) identifies. There are hundreds, if not thousands, that pass unnoticed because the HIO does not have the programmes and data analysis systems to carry out proper checks and catch the cheats.

Gesy is in desperate need of improvements. More safeguards and checks that would minimise the abuses and bring the spiralling costs under control are the only way to ensure the viability and long-term future of Gesy. Allowing it to become a black hole into which more and more of the taxpayer’s money disappears will not preserve its set-up and philosophy, but ensure its eventual collapse. Is this what the camp that opposes any improvements wants?

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