The mass hysteria sparked by President Anastasiades’ decision to appoint the president of the Cyprus Medical Association (CMA), Dr Petros Agathangelou, to the board of the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO), which is in charge of Gesy, defied belief.
Former health ministers described the appointment as ‘shameful’, unions were up in arms, political parties claimed this made clear the government’s intentions to change the basic tenets of Gesy, a member of the HIO board resigned and the chairman said he was considering stepping down, while newspapers were full of scathing articles about the government decision.
The main reason for this universal outrage was that Dr Agathangelou was opposed to Gesy, when it was being set up, and had repeatedly urged doctors not to join. He was ignored, the rewards offered to them by the HIO were far too high for doctors to turn down. Since then, he is seen as a sworn enemy of Gesy, whose agenda is supposedly to dismantle it. He has denied having any such intention, and there is no reason to disbelieve him.
Rationality, however, is not permitted to intrude on mass hysteria. How for example would Dr Agathangelou’s presence on the HIO board change the philosophy of Gesy, when, he would be the only one of 13 directors supporting this? He would be outvoted emphatically every time he tried to impose his sinister agenda. But why would he want to dismantle a scheme to which 95 per cent of the members of the CMA are contracted and benefiting from financially? If he attempted anything like this the members of the CMA would vote for another president.
So, what is all the fuss about? Must everyone appointed to the HIO board have a record of supporting the scheme? Perhaps all members should take an oath, pledging their loyalty commitment to Gesy in its current form.
The truth is it would be good to have someone on the board that might be critical of the scheme, because this could lead to improvement, which it most certainly needs. The assertion that all decisions taken by the HIO board were unanimous, made by its chairman at a House committee meeting, should worry rather than reassure us, because it is through disagreements and debate that improvements can be made. Any member who brings some dissent to a board should be welcomed not ostracised because unanimous decisions are not necessarily infallible.
Some have claimed that the appointment of the head of the doctors constituted a conflict of interest. But is there no conflict of interest, having a representative of a union to which Gesy workers belong? The fact is that the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce proposed Dr Agathangelou as one of its representatives on the HIO board and the president proceeded with his appointment. The chamber is entitled by law to propose two representatives to the board, and the president has appointed one of them. He needs neither the approval of former health minsters, the parties, the unions, the HIO, the patients or journalists to make the appointment.