The Pancyprian medical association (Pis) slammed patient organisation Osak on Monday, accusing them of spreading “false and baseless information”.

The spat erupted after Pis proposed that doctors serve on the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) board of directors. The HIO implements the national health service Gesy.

Osak opposed the proposal, saying that the HIO board operates under its current composition because the system has a specific philosophy, namely that only contributors to the state healthcare fund and service beneficiaries – patients – may participate, and not those who get paid by it.

They also claimed that it would be “paradoxical” if doctors sat on the board deciding issues involving doctors.

Following a meeting with Akel leader Stefanos Stefanou on Monday, Health Minister Popi Kanari appeared to agree with this sentiment, saying “the philosophy and architecture of Gesy are not about to change”, and clarifying that doctors can have their say on such matters through the existing doctors’ scientific commission.

However, Pis was swift to disagree, saying that their involvement in the board of directors “not only will not alter its philosophy, but will strengthen it with expertise”.

Pis emphasised the importance of having people with a “scientific background” on the HIO board of directors, saying that a lack of such expertise is detrimental to Gesy.

Both Osak and Pis called on the health minister and President Nikos Christodoulides to clarify publicly whether they intend to allow such a change in the composition of the board, with Pis also calling on the House of Representatives to “confront the issue with due seriousness”.

Osak had said that the board consults with providers to set fees, as well as other fee-related issues, and is the deciding body on this matter.

In addition, Osak pointed out the argument for inclusion provided by the medical association – that stakeholders participate on the boards of semi-governmental organisations – would extend to hospitals, pharmacists, physiotherapists, nurses, clinical laboratories, radio diagnostic laboratories and others.

“The participation of one body would be unfair… and the participation of all would mean that the providers themselves would consult with themselves, and determine, among other things, their renumeration which comes from the contributions of employers, employees and the state,” Osak said.

Osak recognised the need for participation of doctors and others in decision-making for matters of a purely scientific nature, and detailed that the law provides for the establishment of a scientific committee, intended to function in an advisory capacity to the HIO board.

“The ineffective or rudimentary operation of this committee to date is the sole responsibility of the HIO,” Osak stated.

The patients’ organisation called on the HIO, which runs Gesy, to proceed without delay in the reconstitution and operation of the scientific committee, with representatives from the medical and academic community, as well as patients.

Medical partners must be represented in HIO bodies, and the organisation must proceed with necessary procedures to this end, Osak said.

Osak noted that in addition to the scientific committee, doctors and other stakeholders participate in various ad hoc committees and medical councils, and scientific associations are involved in an ongoing definition of protocols and procedures.