The federation of patients’ associations (Osak) on Tuesday censured those who regard healthcare as a purely financial exercise, where care is measured in euros and cents.

“Patients are neither expenses nor revenues. Health is not a balance sheet, it’s not an accounting exercise, nor are human lives measured in money,” said association head Marios Kouloumas.

He was speaking at a news conference organised by Osak to relay patients’ grievances.

Addressing the media directly, Kouloumas said: “We did not summon you here to ask for more funds for healthcare, but to protest about those who complain about money being spent on healthcare, to put an end to whatever lies behind these complaints.”

Over the past year, he went on, a number of politicians have stated publicly their frustration about rising healthcare expenditures. This included ministers of the previous administration as well as MPs.

“They engage in populism, often without knowing the basics about how the healthcare system in Cyprus works,” asserted Kouloumas.

He also referred to reports that the new Finance Minister Makis Keravnos called for plugging the “black hole” of the national health system or Gesy.

“Thankfully, as we read today this information did not correspond to reality, as a spokesman for the minister clarified that the minister does not consider Gesy to be a black hole, with the minister stating he is a champion of Gesy.”

For his part, Osak spokesman Demetris Lambrianides spoke of the long waiting times for patients to see a specialist.

“We all forget that, in the pre-Gesy era as well, waiting times were huge, but then this concerned only the public sector and those who couldn’t afford private healthcare. Now, and because Okypy [the state health services organisation] hasn’t yet convinced people to make use of it, these waiting lists have filtered into the private sector too.”

Lambrianides pointed out that Cyprus is perhaps the only country in the developed world lacking a system for assessing doctors and medical acts. He faulted the health ministry and the Medical Association for being negligent on this point.

Another issue he brought up related to the pending incorporation into Gesy of many Accident & Emergency units.

It is the responsibility of the Health Insurance Organisation – the agency running the national health system – to ensure that A&E services are offered by all hospitals that are part of Gesy.

Osak secretary Pambos Papadopoulos highlighted the low number of home visits by carers to patients suffering from chronic diseases.

He said a bed-ridden person cannot cover his or her needs even with a 100 such home visits a year.

Papadopoulos stressed that Gesy’s mission is to provide all patients exactly what they need, when they need it.

“If the Health Insurance Organisation invokes the budget as a limiting factor, then that makes it no different to private healthcare insurance. As for us, we shall fight to change that.”