Cyprus Mail

‘Abuse of Gesy needs to be addressed’ (Updated)

Health Minister Michael Damianos

The biggest problem plaguing the health system Gesy is abuse, Health Minister Michalis Damianou said on Thursday in a speech to the House Health Committee on the state of healthcare.

Gesy, which was introduced in 2019 aimed to see hospitals become financially autonomous and out from under state support by May 31, 2024, which does not appear likely, and an extension would be in order until 2026 to iron out the distortions, the minister said.

This was the government’s second policy axis for the healthcare sector both as far as hospitals’ operator Okypy was concerned and the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) that manages Gesy.

“The biggest problem plaguing the health sector that needs to be addressed is abuse,” Damianou said.

“Although steps have been taken in the right direction, much more needs to be done. The continuous monitoring, implementation of systematic controls and the imposition of exemplary punishment on those who abuse the system are the tripartite of dealing with the distortions,” he added.

The reduction of abuses would directly contribute to the rise of the level of services provided, the minister said.

As far as Okypy was concerned, the period of its state support was due to expire on May 31. Damianou said that an action plan would soon be submitted with timetables for the next three years 2024-2026, to gain financial autonomy.

“As a government, we are positively disposed to the extension of state support to Okypy as we recognize the difficulties presented, due to the pandemic, in the implementation of the [original] plan prepared by the organisation,” he said.

“However, to proceed with the extension of state support, specific conditions should be set, with timetables, which we should ensure are implemented. State support to Okypy cannot continue forever. Legislation should be enforced,” he added. “The goal of all stakeholders should be to safeguard and strengthen Gesy. There is no other way.”

He clarified that for various legal reasons, state support in this instance would not need permission from the EU and no such request has been made. “State support to Okypy can be extended, without the approval of the EU”, he said.

Damianou said in the coming months, the ministry would be submitting important bills in this direction and appealed for their support in passing them.

He also gave a rundown on other plans the ministry has in store for the health system in various sectors such as screening programmes for colon, cervical and prostate cancer, and a screening plan for autism in children aged 18 to 23 months.

In mental health, there would be a national strategy completed this year with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) office in Cyprus and a national plan focused on nutritional disorders, Thalassemia, rare diseases, sexual and reproductive health, blood disorders and other plans related to kidney transplants.

The minister said that within 2024, some 50 protocols would be prepared and in 2025 another 40.

“As you can see, the health ministry has a multitude of issues to manage, each with its own particularities and challenges,” Damianou said. “In order to correct distortions, the full and close cooperation of all the bodies involved is required.”

Chairman of the health committee, Disy’s Efthymios Diplaros said after the committee meeting that MPs were in complete agreement with the minister on the upgrading of the health services and the correction of the distortions that have been identified.

Regarding the HIO budget, he said more than 40 questions were submitted by MPs and that he had asked the organisation to submit their answers in writing. There will be an extraordinary meeting of the committee on Monday to receive the answers. MPs, he said were understanding of the fact that the pandemic had interfered with the original plans for the national health system.

But he made it clear that there needs to be strict timetables “so that we don’t find ourselves back here again in two years asking for another extension and many more millions of euros which taxpayers will be asked to pay”.

Opposition Akel MP Marina Nicoalou said the party would support the government’s plans for Gesy as long as it provided “universal and equal access to high-quality health services to all beneficiaries”.

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