The health minister said on Tuesday he will seek legal opinion from the Attorney-general on the legality of the appointment of Dr Petros Agathangelou to the board of the Health Insurance Organisation – the body that oversees the general health system Gesy.
Speaking on CyBC radio, Michalis Hadjipantela also expressed the view that Agathangelou, in his capacity as a member of the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) board, would not act contrary to the philosophy of Gesy.
But should the opposite occur, Hadjipantela added, the relevant law empowers the health minister to dismiss HIO board members.
The minister was seeking to allay the furor over Agathangelou’s recent appointment.
The outcry against Agathangelou relates to two issues. First, that he serves as head of the Cyprus Medical Association, so there would be a conflict of interest for him to sit on the HIO board which has a say on doctors’ remuneration.
Secondly, detractors argue that Agathangelou’s past opposition to Gesy – urging doctors not to join and calling those who did ‘apostates’ – makes him unsuitable for the position.
In a related development, the Social Alliance for The Implementation of Gesy have demanded the immediate revocation of the decision to appoint Agathangelou.
In a meeting held on Monday evening, all 14 organisations comprising the alliance agreed on the need to have Agathangelou removed.
Head of the federation of patients’ associations (Osak) Marios Kouloumas cited “a huge issue of ethics.” He said that, by law, a healthcare provider cannot simultaneously function as member of the board of HIO, which is in charge of Gesy.
Kouloumas noted that providers, especially doctors, do have the opportunity to contribute their views through technical, scientific and other committees, and thus effect improvements to the national healthcare system and resolve any problems.
According to the group’s statement, the fact that Agathangelou himself is not enrolled in Gesy – meaning he has no direct personal interest – is inconsequential.
“As head of the Cyprus Medical Association, he deliberates with doctors who are part of Gesy, in other words they are providers in that system,” the group argued.
“Moreover, the fact that he [Agathangelou] is not a member of Gesy, conveys the message that he does not agree with the system, which raises questions as to whether he will act for the benefit of Gesy, of the providers and of the beneficiaries.”
The group have decided to address an open letter to President Nicos Anastasiades and request a meeting with him. They will additionally launch an online petition with the demand for Agathangelou’s removal.
Unless Agathangelou is sacked, the group also threatened “further dynamic measures, not excluding mass mobilisations.”