The association of physiotherapists went on an all-day work stoppage on Thursday over disputes with the state health insurance organisation (HIO).
Physiotherapists gathered in front of the HIO offices in Nicosia from 10am.
According to them, the dispute hinges on the fact that physiotherapists are carrying out far more appointments than they are being paid for, which is lowering the value rate of services they offer.
Last week, physiotherapists said in a statement that the HIO budgeted for 100,000 monthly visits when in fact around 150,000 visits are taking place each month, adding that since mid-summer of 2022 there has been a steadily increasing influx of patients.
They also slammed the organisation for failing to base its fiscal estimates on real clinical needs.
The association’s head Irini Zannettou handed a written list of demands to the HIO director Maria Kythreotou during the protest on Thursday.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Zannettou said that physiotherapists have repeatedly told the HIO since December 2022 that “the budget allocated is not for physiotherapists but for beneficiaries to receive their treatment.”
“For months it has become clear that, despite the increase in the budget, we cannot cover the needs of patients,” she said.
She added that the association recently hired an epidemiologist who conducted a study on the topic, proving that the HIO’s budget allocation is “flawed”.
“The workload of physiotherapists is increasing by the month, while the HIO is looking for ways to cut the budget,” Zannettou said.
“They claim that our estimates are suspicious, that the number don’t reflect the reality.
“But physiotherapists are not the ones recommending treatments for patients, they deal with referrals that come from specialists.
“We want the HIO’s respect. We want to be their collaborators, and we are neither begging nor asking for anything unreasonable,” she said.
On Wednesday, the HIO released a statement, saying physiotherapists “chose the path of confrontation, instead of dialogue”.
The organisation’s spokesperson Monica Kyriakou on Thursday reiterated the message, saying the HIO extended several invitations to the association of physiotherapists hoping to clear the two parties’ differences.
“So far, we have not received any response. From now on, we will see how the situation unfolds.
“Surely, without a constructive meeting or dialogue, it is challenging to make progress in resolving the problems.
“Therefore, it is crucial for all stakeholders to come to the table so that the necessary solutions can be implemented,” she said.
Left-wing party Akel on Thursday released a statement of support for physiotherapists, calling on the HIO to listen to their demands.
“They need to make decisions that ensure the quality of care for patients and the wellbeing for health professionals, because this is what public health requires,” Akel said.
“It must be clear that there cannot be discounts in the health sector.”
The patients association (Osak) also released a statement on Thursday, calling on physiotherapists and the HIO to find a solution to the dispute and “put the patient’s interest first”.