Afternoon outpatient clinics operated by the state health services (Okypy) will have their working hours and days extended, according to health minister Popi Kanari.

Kanari said these working hour extensions will mostly impact specialities such as cardiology, nephrology, and endocrinology, with the aim of ameliorating the long waiting times faced by patients.

The announcement came after a meeting held at the health ministry on Monday which was hosted by Kanari and attended by representatives of Okypy, the Health insurers association (HIO), the Cyprus medical association (PIS), and the federation of Cyprus patients’ associations (Osak).

Kanari said the ministry’s goal is to reduce waiting lists, especially for emergencies, “so that patients are provided with prompt care and are not inconvenienced”.

In addition, the parties present at the meeting discussed the possibility of giving GPs the opportunity to prescribe medicines for cases previously outside their jurisdiction, such as vitamins for osteoporosis.

The aim of such an initiative would be to free up specialists to treat more urgent cases.

“In other words, the role of GPs must be strengthened, and we will then proceed to more difficult solutions with the HIO for matters of changing systems and mechanisms in the context of the implementation of Gesy”, Kanari said.

She added that the issue of long waiting lists “is also related to the issue of patients’ culture, some of whom pressure GPs to needlessly refer them to specialists”.

“Patients must also understand that when they do not need urgent care, they must give priority to those who do need urgent care”, she said.

She added that “at the same time, doctors must be given the freedom to define which cases are emergencies and which are not”.

She said the HIO had “made a commitment” at the meeting to study the proposals and suggestions made with the aim of reducing waiting lists.