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Our View: Okypy’s financial autonomy by 2024 proving to be a pipe dream

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AS if on cue and in line with predictions for anyone with eyes to see, the state health services organisation (Okypy) on Thursday admitted that the June 2024 target for public hospitals to attain financial autonomy may have to be pushed back.

In parliament, Okypy head Marios Panagides said the organisation might seek an extension of anywhere from one to three years for state grants to public hospitals. June of 2024 was the initial deadline for terminating these cash injections.

Panagides cited the Covid pandemic, which he said disrupted operations and revenue streams at public hospitals. But critics countered that Okypy’s failure to balance its budget was due to waste and mismanagement, and there was a long line of them waiting to say their piece at the audit committee on Thursday.

Christina Yiannaki, permanent secretary at the health ministry, said the pandemic could not be used as an excuse, while Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides remarked that Covid would not be cited as “an alibi for everything.” He recalled how he had warned since 2019 that Okypy would not be able to balance its budget and thus achieve financial autonomy by 2024. It’s not that he had a crystal ball or is more clever than everyone else. The signs have been there all along but have been lit up in neon more recently as Covid abated and everything wrong with the system that was hidden in the shadow of the pandemic started coming to light.

Michaelides said one more thing that was interesting. More and more patients, he said, were turning to private healthcare and warning that “the alarm bells should be going off at Okypy”. We don’t know whether this was a throwaway insult or whether anyone actually has data on this, but it has a ring of truth to it.

Anecdotally at least, almost everyone knows someone with a negative tale of their experience with Gesy.
There are some people who say they have had positive experiences to be fair, but even if there is only one negative story for every positive one, that still amounts to too many bad experiences to be excusable. Negative experiences should be rare, not common.

It is also true, anecdotally, that there are people who, if they can afford it, have either taken out private health insurance or are looking into it in some form, either fully or partially, say for inpatient care while using Gesy services for GP visits and cheaper tests. Some end up paying for both even though they might not necessarily be all that well off but they do not want to take any chances with their health.

Michaelides is right to say this should set off alarm bells at Okypy as it signifies not only a loss of income for the so-called autonomous hospitals when and if that eventually happens, but worse, it indicates that there is a lack of trust in a system that was supposed to provide affordable and professional healthcare for all.

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