WE doubt any other subject has been given as much time by the legislature’s committees as talking about Gesy and its related bodies, state medical services Okypy which runs public hospitals, and the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) the scheme’s paymaster and financial controller.

House committee meetings are invariably inconclusive, but they offer a platform for representatives of interest groups to voice complaints and express opinions on how the scheme should run, regardless of level of expertise. The scheme belongs to the people and therefore everyone must have a say in its running. These meetings also allow deputies to pose as guardians of Gesy, thereby ingratiating themselves with the public.

In the latest meeting, at the House watchdog committee on Thursday, Chairman Zacharias Koulias declared that he would work to take control of Gesy away from the HIO and give it to the health ministry as is the practice in all developed countries. Koulias, a Diko deputy, took a swipe at the irrational rule of keeping doctors off the HIO board because of conflict of interest. “They do not know anything about medicine and have no say about Gesy,” he quipped as he welcomed doctors that did not belong to Gesy at the meeting.

Doctors are barred from sitting on the HIO board by law. When a couple of months ago the government appointed the head of the Cyprus Medical Association to the board, all hell broke loose, with other board members threatening to resign, the patients’ association campaigning for his removal, and the media lambasting the decision. The main reason for the outcry was that the doctor had fought against the establishment of Gesy and would now be able to undermine it from within.

They all missed the point, which Koulias correctly raised on Thursday. Doctors should be represented on the HIO board as they know a lot more about medical issues, treatments and hospital procedures than the current directors, who include union reps and HIO executives. It defies belief that legislators decided that doctors should be barred from the HIO because of conflict of interest while giving three or four seats to union reps.

The most compelling argument for involving doctors on the board was provided by the auditor-general who was also present at the meeting. He pointed out that different hospitals are paid different rates for an appendectomy, ranging from €3,000 to €4,600, and rates were based on a hospital’s 2018 revenue. This w a monumentally idiotic deal by HIO executives which the board sanctioned. Perhaps if there were a doctor on the board, he could have pointed out to his fellow directors that paying different prices for the same surgical procedure made no sense.

An element of rationality might even have been introduced in the management of Gesy.