Tempers flared during a debate at the House health committee on Thursday in response to proposed changes to the national health service, Gesy, put forward by Edek leader Marinos Sizopoulos.

Sizopoulos proposed changes to the way Gesy operates, and more specifically recommended that doctors working outside the system should be able to prescribe medicines and other tests within the Gesy framework.

“This proposal alters Gesy’s philosophy and architecture, while it will incentivise doctors to leave the system,” said President of the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO), Thomas Antoniou.

Antoniou said that this proposal creates two categories of doctors and two categories of patients.

“Any changes to Gesy that improve its operation are welcome, but changes that alter its philosophy and architecture, the only result they will have is the collapse of Gesy and the patient’s right to free and equal access to health,” he added.

Meanwhile, President of the House Health Committee, Efthimios Diplaros, said that any changes being discussed were not about changing the philosophy and architecture of Gesy, adding that ruling Disy believes that “mistakes, omissions and abuses” of the system should be corrected.

Diplaros said that the aim of any changes being discussed is to upgrade the quality of the services provided for patients, assuring that these changes will not alter the philosophy and architecture of Gesy.

On the offensive, Akel MP George Loukaides claimed it was a “blatant conflict of interest” by Sizopoulos, who put forward the proposal, since he belongs to the small minority of doctors who have not joined Gesy and accused the Edek leader of attempting to serve the interests of health providers who chose to stay out of the National Health Service.

Loukaides added that his party has expressed strong opposition to the proposal from the get-go.

According to the Akel lawmaker, this proposal will open the backdoor for requests of a similar nature, not only from doctors, but also from hospitals and clinics to claim similar treatment.

For his part, Sizopoulos argued that the bill he submitted does not entail any additional cost to the system and will regulate the patient’s right to have free and direct access to any doctor he wants.

He added that this regulation applies both in Greece and in Britain in a different way.

Sizopoulos said that his proposal aims to improve care and quality of health for citizens, as well as help to alleviate the burden on the large waiting lists that currently exist in certain medical specialties.

Meanwhile, Diko’s Panicos Leonidou, said that his party is not in favour of abolishing the health system, stressing that Gesy must definitely be safeguarded.

However, he noted that “on the other hand, ways must be found to address and fill any gaps that exist”.

Leonidou said that Diko is ready to discuss, without creating the impression that it is attempting in any way to distort or interfere with Gesy’s central idea and philosophy.

The MP of Depa – Cooperation, Michalis Giakoumi, reiterated his party’s position that “Gesy is the greatest social victory and we must ensure its sustainability. It is and must remain a single-insurance health plan, as well as improve it, especially on issues of quality and control.”

“There are already issues of control and abuses in Gesy by some doctors who are in the system. I wonder how doctors outside Gesy will be checked, who with this proposal will be able to prescribe within Gesy,” Giakoumi concluded.