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Our View: Some Gesy teething problems could have been foreseen

File Photo: Nicosia hospital A&E department Photo: Christos Theodorides

On Wednesday, the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) that operates the national health system, finally announced the measures it would take to put an end to Gesy abuses.

The HIO, which has come under increasing fire of late for allowing the abuses to continue, said the proposed changes place equal burden for the survival of Gesy on both  provider and on beneficiaries.

They cited key changes such as  altering the way GPs are remunerated, efforts to reduce referrals to specialist doctors and tougher protocols for when claims are made by providers, along with the handing out of medicines and carrying out of operations.

The public has been outraged recently at the amount of money that has been paid out to doctors, but there has been little focus on abuses by beneficiaries. The HIO said that on average every 100 consultations with a GP lead to 40 referrals to specialists, a figure far higher than in other development healthcare systems.

With one million claims a month made under Gesy, that is quite a few referrals.  Though this might sound like doctors out to benefit their colleagues, according to the HIO, it is the beneficiaries who often call up GPs and pressure them to issue referrals by phone and threaten to change doctor unless their demands are met.

To counter this, the HIO is set to impose a time limit as to how often a patient can switch GPs and will also be required to state a reason for leaving.

No doubt there were going to be issues that cropped up in a new health system that could not be predicted, but the behaviour of some doctors and patients and how abuses could be handled, could have been factored in to some extent from the get go.

There were few people, and even fewer in positions of authority, that were not aware of the existence of tax-dodging doctors. Also known was the culture of entitlement among a large section of the population who would inevitably try to get as much as they could for free without thinking of the consequences for those who might need to be in front of them in the queue.

Both of these came up immediately after Gesy was first rolled out in 2019.

The fledgling computer system flagged thousands of suspicious entries while doctors, clinical labs and pharmacies were inundated with unnecessary visits by the public demanding all of the medical tests that they could not or would not pay for previously.

A HIO official at the time said that for Gesy to run smoothly, proper education and culture was needed both by healthcare providers and by patients. Yet none was provided then, or since as millions of euros were wasted.

The fact that the pandemic came along shortly after the Gesy rollout could be considered a mitigating factor to an extent but now that it appears to be under control, there are no more excuses not to straighten out the health system once and for all.


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