President Nicos Anastasiades is considering “all options” amid an escalating row over cabinet’s decision to appoint the head of the Cyprus medical association to the HIO board, government spokesman Marios Pelekanos said on Wednesday.

The handling of the issue has been taken over by the Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela in consultation with the president, Pelekanos told radio Trito in the morning.

He explained that initially the impression had been given that there was a consensus on the part of the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) — which runs the general health scheme (Gesy) — regarding the appointment of Dr Petros Agathangelou.

“Afterwards it became apparent that this impression was wrong,” the government spokesman said, reiterating that the president will not tolerate any alteration of the architecture of the national health scheme.

One member of the HIO board has already resigned in protest, while the HIO president is also understood to be ready to quit, once the appointment letter is sent to the board.

The committee on conflict of interest has said it too was looking into the appointment over potential conflicts upon the request of Disy MP Demetris Demetriou who heads the House institutions committee.

Responding to the protests on Wednesday, the president of private doctors’ union Enik Marinos Soteriou spoke of a ‘holy war (Jihad)’ against his colleague, saying that Gesy is in danger from corruption and lack of checks and not a single board member.

“If one-tenth of the reaction to the Agathangelou appointment was recorded in connection with the daily revelations of system abuses and inadequate controls today, there would be no ‘Agathangelou issue’,” the doctor said in a written statement.

The latest act of this “endless populism” is the review of the appointment by the conflict-of-interest committee, since other members are “illegally” on the board, he alleged.

According to Soteriou, the law stipulates that “a person who is a supplier or has any interest in connection with the procurement of services or supplies provided under this Law may not be appointed or continue to be a chair or member of the board”.

Soteriou claimed the chief of HIO also has conflict of interest according to the relevant law since his wife is registered as a Gesy provider. Furthermore, he said, trade unions, Peo and Sek, are also represented on the HIO board but have businesses in the health sector that provide services under the scheme. The same applies for patients’ association Osak, since its members, such as Pasykaf, provide services under Gesy.

The new developments came a day after a group of 14 associations, including trade unions and other organisations under the name ‘social alliance for the implementation of Gesy’ addressed a letter to Anastasiades demanding the revocation of the appointment.

In their letter, the group referred to the conflict of interest arising by the appointment of the Cyprus medical association (CyMA) president to the post, but also Agathangelou’s past opposition to the scheme.

Meanwhile, the patients’ association Osak on Wednesday repeated their intention to take dynamic measures if the decision to appoint the cardiologist as one of the 13 board members is enforced.

Osak representative Demetris Lambrianides called on the president and the council of ministers to revoke their decision, threatening to abstain from HIO meetings if Agathangelou is on the board.

Lambrianides said all the 2023 presidential candidates will be asked to publicly take a stand on this appointment.