‘For Gesy to continue, there need to be changes’

Mistakes were made while introducing the largest reform to the health system through Gesy’s implementation, and deeply rooted changes need to take place for the sake of quality healthcare, the House health committee heard on Thursday.

“For Gesy to continue, there need to be changes and we shouldn’t be afraid of change,” chairman of the committee Efthymios Diplaros said.

“Mistakes were made when implementing the biggest reform that ever took place in the country.”

Diplaros said all stakeholders present at the committee ranging from health ministry reps to the Health Insurance Organisation (Hio) and the patients federation (Osak) were in agreement that there was a lot of room for improvement.

Cyprus’ overuse of MRI scanners featured prominently during the session, with Osak chairman Charalambos Papadopoulos specifying that although three to four scanners should be sufficient, Cyprus has 17 across the country with a 15-day waiting time to book an appointment.

Even if Cyprus got 20 MRI scanners, there would still be a waiting list, he stressed. In fact, one in three Gesy beneficiaries undertook some X-ray in 2022, he added.

Papadopoulos told deputies it was important to investigate why Cyprus has waiting lists “everywhere” even though the country has one of the highest ratios of doctors to its population in the EU.

“Are we a society of sick people? Osak wants a proper investigation. Are all referrals necessary? Should one in two undergo laboratory tests and one in three diagnostic imaging?”

He added that in 2022, there were 90,000 surgeries carried out, meaning one in ten beneficiaries underwent some operation.

Additionally, Cyprus’ population amounts to some one million citizens for which there are 56 hospitals – and yet there are still issues of overcrowding in intensive care units, he said.

Health ministry permanent secretary Christina Giannaki said in the fourth year of Gesy’s operation, there were 943,978 beneficiaries registered under a GP of which 806,900 had visited their GP.

In total, 692,500 took medication, while 611,200 beneficiaries visited specialist doctors. Meanwhile 502,300 underwent lab tests and 299,900 visited imaging centres and 286,500 visited dentists.

“Recognising Gesy’s importance is what ensures action points are adopted to continuously improve and enrich it, while also fighting abuse in the system and ensuring its sustainability.”

For state health services (Okypy) the aim is to organise hospitals in such a way so that they operate autonomously.

HIO chairman Stavros Michail specified actions need to be taken to put a stop to abuse of the system. Already, inspections which have been carried out have yielded results as eight contracts with specialist doctors have been scrapped, six of which have been reported to the police.

Another 15 lab contracts have also been binned after they were found not to have a proper licence, he added.

“We need to ensure the quality of Gesy and cement the financial viability of the system.”

Diplaros stressed change was needed “without altering the philosophy and design of Gesy. There needs to be some drastic changes in some sectors, so as to have the best quality of service for patients, a sustainable and functional system.”

Commissioner for Gesy’s audit, complaints and supervision Dr Christodoulos Kaisis told deputies it was of paramount importance that Gesy operated within the realms of the law.

“We can’t be negotiating with illegality.”

Next week, MPs will submit their questions and express their positions over the matter.