Cyprus Mail

Gesy budget must be reined in, new HIO chief says  


Although the national health system faces many challenges it must be preserved at all costs, the new head of the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) said on Thursday but he sounded the alarm over Gesy’s continually growing budget.

New HIO head Stavros Michael pledged he would do his utmost to preserve the single-payer nature of the national health system.

The HIO is the state agency running the national health system or Gesy.

Speaking in parliament, Michael conceded that Gesy was plagued by many problems.

“But I am not terrorised…and I will roll up my sleeves to work for this blessing [i.e. Gesy] enjoyed by the people of Cyprus,” he told lawmakers.

In particular, Michael sounded the alarm over Gesy’s continually growing budget.

“We need to see how we can stabilise it [the budget] but without reducing the services offered to patients” he said.

The Gesy budget currently stands at €1.5 billion.

MPs criticised the HIO for its apparent failure to address a major problems – the lack of listed pharmaceuticals and delays in approving new ones.

Other lawmakers acknowledged the HIO has a tough task ahead, and said they stand ready to support the agency and keep politics out of healthcare.

“When it comes to health, party-political considerations have no place. We are at your disposal to help solve the problems,” Disy MP Charalambos Pazaros told Michael.

Meanwhile also on Thursday, one of the pending issues affecting the HIO was settled. Doctors with private practices within hospitals contracted with the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) had their request to maintain the status quo rejected by a court.

The move was welcomed by the auditor-general’s office which said that the HIO will now finally have to comply with the law.

“We expect that finally, the HIO – after two years of putting up with illegalities – will comply and request that the Gesy-contracted clinics will comply with the law,” the audit office tweeted.

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides also chimed in, adding that the backdoor to a multi-payer system will now close.

“We highlighted the illegality on July 15, 2020 and the fact that it went counter to the basic principle of the law of a universal healthcare system which will provide equal treatment to all,” he said.

The issue concerns 20 doctors. In order to ensure uniformity in terms of the monetary transactions carried out at Gesy hospitals, the government wants them out. Alternatively the doctors can continue operating out of these hospitals if they apply to join Gesy.

The 20 doctors had been supposed to vacate the premises of private hospitals by the end of last month, but were given a grace period of three days until the court issued a ruling.

Doctors who themselves are not part of Gesy may no longer provide inpatient care at these hospitals. Inpatient care is defined as a patient being admitted and spending at least one night in a hospital, or the use of specialised medical infrastructure located within the healthcare facility.

For its part, the HIO on Thursday confirmed that the body’s prohibition on such services now applies. It noted, however, that an interim order was filed by a plaintiff (one of the private doctors) – with the court not deciding whether to issue it, but said the matter will be revisited on November 24.

The decision to prohibit doctors with a private practice within hospitals contracted with the HIO but who themselves are not registered with the national health system was announced in late September.

That move was then rejected by those same doctors, who sought to challenge it but that has now failed.

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.

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