Doctors at a private medical centre in Limassol have asked to be given time to relocate, following a majority decision by its shareholders to be inducted into the national health system (Gesy).

Dr. Charis Armeftis, a pulmonologist at Ygia Polyclinic, the private centre in question, in an interview on CyBC on Wednesday decried the situation, saying that rapid induction of private medical centres into Gesy was utterly wrongheaded and a “ticking time bomb.”

There is no other comparable facility to Ygia in Limassol, Armeftis said, and predicted that once the clinic became a member, there would be a flight of patients away from Limassol general hospital towards the clinic.

The pulmonologist further argued that those members of the public who pay into private insurances ought to have their rights to private medical care preserved and that a “state monopoly” in health care was an unsustainable strategy.

“Because Gesy has no capacity planning, it is a dangerous model,” Armeftis said, and argued that the rush to induct private hospitals raised the spectre of a serious drop in quality all around, since the unitary budget provided for by the health insurance organisation (HIO), would need to be thinly spread among a growing number of providers.

The state will face difficulties attracting qualified doctors who are not willing to work for lower salaries and some medical centres would end up not receiving enough funding to remain functional, Armeftis said, unless taxpayers were called upon to foot the bill.

The absence of capacity planning also creates situations where patients requiring urgent or specialised surgery will not be able to access it, Armeftis said, describing a recent incident where a man whose fingers had been severed had to waste time looking for a qualified surgeon thereby compromising his medical outcome.

Thirty doctors at Ygia clinic have chosen not to join Gesy and they ought to be given time to relocate, Armeftis said, as was done in the case of two clinics in Nicosia.

Diko MP Panicos Leonidou, meanwhile, is expected to make a proposal to parliament for a resolution to the matter.

If implementation of its 2023 plans goes over the budget provided for by Gesy, the HIO will face further challenges Philenews reported on Wednesday.

Chairman of the organisation, Stavros Michael mentioned the need to increase the planning budget while speaking on CyBC on Tuesday.

Asked about the issue, Michael responded, “possibly when we complete the consultation with the hospital we will find that the budget needs to be increased…this will become clear when we have all the data in front of us.”

The problem with the approved funds for the HIO arose from the stance of the finance ministry during the preparation of the 2023 budget.

The HIO at the time predicted costs and revenues of €1.5 billion. The ministry, however, demanded the limitation of both revenues and expenditures to €1.4 billion, calculating that contributions to Gesy (sourced from monthly contributions of employees, employers and the state) would be reduced due to an expected drop in wages.

In a letter sent to the HIO at the time, the ministry asked that government contribution be limited to €600 million for 2023, to increase by 4 per cent per year for 2024 and 2025, Phile reports.

The predicted drop, however, was not borne out during the initial months of the year. The HIO, as initially calculated, collects around €110 million monthly. This means that Gesy has, in reserve, adequate funding for implementation of its plans and inclusion of additional providers and services.

The HIO, however, must first submit a request for additional expenditures and secure approval from the finance ministry and parliament, it since they were not included in the original budget.