Health Minister Popi Kanari has thrown her support behind a plan to transfer the process of sending patients abroad to the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO).

Speaking after a meeting of the House committee, Kanari confirmed the proposal.

“The president announced that the HIO would assume the responsibility of referring patients who are beneficiaries of Gesy abroad,” she said.

She added that the health ministry will “provide all possible assistance” to the HIO for the “successful and quick transfer of the management” of the system to the HIO.

In addition, she confirmed that legislation to allow such a move has already passed through parliament, and that the current move is “nothing more than compliance” with existing laws.

Currently, patients who require treatment abroad have their case examined by a committee attached to the health ministry, chaired by the ministry’s permanent secretary Christina Yiannaki.

But Kanari’s suggested change was criticised by some committee members.

Chairman Disy MP Efthimios Diplaros said he supported the existing system as the “smoothest and most efficient operation of the programme”.

“According to the findings of the audit service, the operation of the programme in question has been particularly satisfactory and has significantly improved in recent years,” he said.

He said that the HIO and other connected agencies had said it was not possible to do what the minister wanted.

“We are not dogmatic, but according to all the evidence at our disposal, we judge that the HIO cannot currently implement the programme with exactly the same conditions and chances of success [as the ministry].”

Akel MP Yiorgos Loukaides, who supports the change, accused Diplaros of “discrediting parliamentary procedures, violating the rules of procedure, and not allowing the floor to be given to invited guests” during the meeting.

He said the patients’ federation “was forced to leave without ever taking the floor”.

He added that Akel “welcomes the overdue move to transfer these services and this plan to the HIO”.

Diko MP Panicos Leonidou also supports the move, saying “the HIO should immediately proceed with its implementation”.

Dipa’s Michalis Yiakoumi was less convinced, however. “I really don’t understand what the urgency is, I don’t understand why this should be the ministry’s priority,” he said.

“There are heaps of issues and problems concerning Gesy. It has been proven that there are other problems which need immediate action and a solution.”

He was not completely against the plan, saying “the HIO must be ready before it takes over the management of the plan”.

He said there must be “transparent procedures”, equal treatment for all patients, and no unnecessary bureaucracy in the system, but that the HIO is currently “unprepared” for the transfer.

Edek leader Marinos Sizopoulos was much less accommodating, saying his party “remains firm in its position that the programme … should remain, especially at this time, under the jurisdiction of the health ministry”.

He agreed with Diplaros that the current system has in recent years “proven to be particularly effective and efficient for the benefit of patients” and said it should not be called into questions.