As of November 1, doctors who have a private practice within hospitals contracted with the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) but who themselves are not registered with the national health system will be prohibited from working at those hospitals.
Speaking in parliament on Thursday, deputy HIO director Athos Tsinontidis said his organisation has already informed the affected hospitals about the coming change.
But at the same time, the HIO took flak for having allowed doctors outside the national health system (Gesy) to practice private medicine in hospitals that are part of the system. Both the auditor-general and MPs said the law governing Gesy expressly forbids this, and that consequently the HIO – the agency tasked with running Gesy – has effectively acted illegally by allowing this to happen.
The HIO denied it broke the law.
The matter is related to the remuneration paid to hospitals that are part of Gesy, after it emerged that the HIO reimburses different hospitals with different rates for the same medical procedure.
Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides cited the example of appendectomy, where the rates the HIO pays to different hospitals range from €3,000 to €4,500.
Michaelides also said the Gesy law clearly prohibits the payment of any monies by Gesy beneficiaries while visiting a Gesy-registered hospital.
An official tasked with supervising Gesy told MPs that the attorney-general had already opined it is illegal for Gesy-registered medical facilities to host private practice. Both the health ministry and the HIO have disregarded this, he added.
The current contracts between healthcare facilities and the HIO expire at the end of 2022.
HIO director Andreas Papaconstantinou pointed out that once the new contracts are signed, as of January 1, 2023, the fees for the same medical procedures will continue to differ from one hospital to another.
In a related development on Thursday, three facilities – Limassol Clinic, Imperial Clinic and Limassol Medical Center – announced they have suspended all scheduled surgeries, in protest of “the financial problems faced by small healthcare facilities due to the inequality of payments between large and small facilities.”
Edek MP Marinos Sizopoulos said the HIO overshot its allocated budget during the first two years of operation. In the first year the budget for Gesy was set at €920 million but €1.315 billion was spent; and in the second year actual expenditures came to €1.379 billion despite the budget having been set at €950 million.
At this rate, Sizopoulos said, contributions by Gesy beneficiaries – members of the public – would continue rising.