Finance Minister Makis Keravnos categorically denied on Friday the complaints made by the patient’s association regarding the potential misuse of Gesy’s funds earmarked for healthcare, while the health ministry attempted to assure that the government would not use the funds for anything else except the national health scheme.

The patients’ association (Osak) had expressed concerns a day earlier, suggesting that discussions within the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) revealed risks that someone could “put a hand” in and interfere with Gesy’s funds.

Osak Chairman Charalambos Papadopoulos said this would never be tolerated and underlined that currently, legislation is in place that restricts the use of Gesy’s financials only for healthcare purposes. However, Osak’s concern is that “with the creation of a huge reserve, others will be inspired to move forward with a legal amendment allowing these funds to be used for other purposes.”

In response to Osak’s criticism on Friday, Keravnos dismissed their concerns, stating that the group entertained a “sick fantasy” that the funds could be diverted anywhere other than Gesy.

He pointed out that the Gesy was a societal victory, with the goal of modernising the state health services organisation (Okypy) and the health insurance organisation (HIO), in order to ensure a satisfactory level of health care within the state’s budget framework.

However, Keravnos said that while the relevant budget is increasing, the level of services provided is decreasing, adding that the government is concerned about the possibility of mismanagement.

He said while there is legislation for the gradual autonomy of public hospitals, this is not being implemented.

Additionally, Keravnos pointed out that audited accounts from HIO have not been submitted yet. Earlier this month, he emphasized that the focus should be on improving productivity rather than expanding the workforce.

In a written statement, Keravnos said that he “in every way” supports Gesy, saying that public debates on the matter are “unnecessary and counterproductive”.

Also weighing in, Health Minister Popi Kanari said that the government will not cut any money from Gesy.

“Moreover, this is also shown in the budget that we submitted for 2024, which is increased by 14 per cent. Some funds that were not included in the budget now relate to issues that we have now been asked to manage and will be included in the supplementary budget,” she said.

She added that a meeting will be scheduled next week with the HIO and the finance minister.

However, she noted that the ministry believes that there is a need at the HIO for staff.

Earlier, the health minister visited the clinics of the Nicosia General Hospital ahead of the New Year.

“With the coming of the New Year, we wanted to give a note of hope to the patients, but also support to the staff to be armoured with strength to cope with difficult circumstances, as these are common in such a profession, to give our wishes to everyone for a better 2024.”

According to Kanari, there is a lot to be done in 2024, as the efforts of all in the health sector is to focus on upgrading even more health services and attitudes towards patients.