Health Minister Popi Kanari on Tuesday assured she would act as a mediator to solve the issues raised by the Cyprus physiotherapists’ union in an effort to postpone a planned work stoppage.
Earlier in the day, after receiving an unsatisfactory response from the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO), physiotherapists said they would keep fighting until budget issues in their field are resolved.
The previous day, the Cyprus physiotherapists’ association announced its members would stage a four-hour work stoppage at 9am on Thursday to resolve pending issues after they called the health minister’s intervention insufficient.
After that statement the HIO reportedly said it intends to implement measures to deal with the abuses observed in physiotherapy.
Asked to comment on the developments during a press conference for the inauguration of a renovated ward at Makarios children’s hospital, Kanari said she would arrange meetings with both the HIO and physiotherapists.
“It saddens me that they are resorting to a strike,” she said. “I have heard them and understand them completely”.
The health minister claimed that before the work stoppage announcement, she had conveyed to the HIO, both verbally and in writing, the requests of the association, and a request from radiologists with regards to the calculation of the necessary units.
The association said it did not understand which circumstances prevent the HIO from submitting a revised budget proposal according to its repeated suggestions, which point towards the “wrong budget for physiotherapy.
“We have never refused meaningful dialogue, we simply refuse to have conversations without substance,” the association said.
“There is only one issue pending in the discussion between us, and that is the correct determination of the needs of physiotherapy beneficiaries, according to the real data as they arise every day, as well as the studies we presented with the little information you have provided,” it added.
“If you want to cut benefits from the beneficiaries we will not be your accomplices,” the letter said, adding that if the HIO wants to crack down on system abuses, the association should not be the one to indicate how.
The association also said that changes the HIO has already made, without its consent, are “unacceptable” as they hinder the free access of beneficiaries to physiotherapy on an equal basis according to their individual needs.
These changes have to do with the addition of more musculoskeletal disorders on the eligibility register for physio, raising the number of monthly sessions and stretching the budget even further.
The association reiterated that it expects the health minister to mediate and return the discussion to the correct basis for determining the budget within the month.
At the same time, it said it expects the HIO to provide an updated patient list and budget breakdown, as well as an explanation why it disagrees with the association’s calculations, which at the last meeting indicated that the budget should be €28-30 million to cover the needs of all beneficiaries.
Kanari estimated that any reductions in units would cause a significant drop in the quality of the health supply, noting that she asked the HIO to investigate the issue of calculating budgets against the number of physiotherapists, and other specialists, since as health minister she would not like the quality of healthcare to drop.
She assured that her ministry’s concern is the upgrading of health services, the quality of the services offered, and accessibility for everyone.
“So it does not help to constantly reduce units and introduce new professions at a time when we still need to better manage the ones we have,” she said.
She said that she would be arranging a meeting with HIO, saying that she would also call the physiotherapists’ association if they wish to speak to her.