A probe expected to wrap up by year’s end should give a clearer picture as to how many individuals are practicing medicine without the requisite qualifications, having taken advantage of flaws in the registration and licensing process.
In parliament on Thursday, MPs spoke of “charlatans” posing as doctors. Lawmakers heard that nine cases are currently in the courts, while 15 are under investigation by the police. Overall, files have been opened for about 50 individuals working as doctors.
The probe, which got underway a month ago, aims to find out just how widespread the problem is. It was finally initiated after lobbying by the federation of patients’ associations (Osak) who have been complaining about this issue for years.
The investigation is being conducted by the Medical Registration Council.
Going by statements made to the media following the session of the House health committee, it appears that a number of otherwise unqualified individuals practicing medicine had managed to slip through the cracks because of poor coordination between the Cyprus Council of Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications (Kysats) and the Medical Association.
Efthymios Diplaros, a Disy MP, said several of the cases flagged so far concern doctors from non-EU countries practicing here.
“The mechanism that starts from the Medical Registration Council, Kysats and the Medical Association is now functioning properly, but in the past no such checks existed, which is why we have the investigation of these 50 cases,” he said.
The cases date back to two ‘dead’ periods – from 2004 to 2010, and from 2010 to 2017 – when it seems the necessary checks were not being carried.
“Changes in processing information, as well as audits, began only in June 2021, while it ought to have begun earlier,” the MP noted.
The relevant legislation also needed tightening up, as it appears scamsters were able to exploit gaps. Tweaks are needed relating to the certification, registration, training and re-evaluation processes.
According to Dipa MP Marinos Moushiouttas, Kysats asked a number of registered doctors to take exams so that they could secure approval to practice, but they refused.
Answering a journalist’s question, Moushiouttas said the law, as it stands, does not afford the competent authorities to check what each doctor claims to possess in qualifications.
And Diko’s Chrysanthos Savvides said that “charlatan doctors practice medicine, in the sense that they lack the proper degree or do not possess the specialty that they advertise.”