Parliament on Thursday night unanimously approved the budgets of the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) and State Health Services (Okypy).

Okypy’s total budget for 2024 foresees expenditure totalling at €761.8 million, and income amounting to €661.1m. The HIO’s budget foresees around €1.6 billion in both expenditure and income, amounting to exactly €29,339 of net income.

Speaking at the Okypy budget debate, Disy MP and House Health committee chairman Efthimios Diplaros said, “if we do not support our public hospitals, we know Gesy will collapse, with all that entails.”

“We cannot reset everything,” he said, writing that a strategic plan to upgrade public hospitals one by one has been submitted, with the aim of completing upgrades by the end of June 2026.

However, he noted, planned upgrades to the Limassol General hospital are still in the evaluation stage, as “valuable time is being lost due to appeals”.

Disy MP Savia Orphanidou stressed the need for ‘financial and operational autonomy in our public hospitals’ and urged careful consideration of extending state sponsorship for hospitals beyond May.

“The only way to accept an extension to the sponsorship will be under very strict conditions with a specific framework,” she said, adding that “the ball is in the government’s court for this reason.”

She also congratulated the children’s accident and emergency department for its “flawless operation” and hailed projects to expand the neonatal intensive care unit and to expand the paediatric oncology clinic with the hiring of a permanent child psychologist.

Disy MP Charalambos Pazaros welcomed the plans to begin upgrades and expansion works at the Paphos general hospital, describing the project as “state of the art”.

Akel MP Yiorgos Loukaides described Okypy’s existence as a “compromise we had accepted” but said that his party had been “vindicated” by negative consequences.

“Instead of providing flexibility, it has had the exact opposite effect. Ultimately, we created a hyper-centralised organisation,” he said.

He added, “they are already making threats in relation to state support and are not taking account the two lost years of the pandemic.”

Fellow Akel MP Marina Nicolaou added her support for state sponsorship for public hospitals to continue, while fellow party member Irene Charalambidou called for better management of Okypy’s finances.

The waste of public money is inexcusable,” she said.

Diko MP Chrysanthos Savvides described Okypy hospitals as “the backbone of Gesy,” adding that “people end up in public hospitals during their difficult times.”

He added that the investments made in Okypy “did not have the corresponding return because there are hospitals which have building facilities in very bad condition.”

Patients wait five or six hours, doctors complain that their clinics are understaffed, and hospitals lack basic specialist treatments,” he said.

Efthimios Diplaros also opened the HIO’s budget debate, expressing “joy” that “everyone believed in this reform”.

“Gesy came to stay and is here to stay,” he added, saying Gesy is “unquestionably sustainable” until at least 2031.

The debate covered much of the same ground as the Okypy debate, with Disy MPs speaking about the need for budgetary autonomy for public hospitals, although fresh points were also raised.

Diplaros said “no one is going to change the philosophy of Gesy” but did point out that patient complaints were on the rise.

Yiorgos Loukaides described Gesy as “the greatest social achievement”, pointing out that Cyprus was the “fourth-worst country in the world” for healthcare before the system’s implementation.

He said that Cyprus is now “in one of the best positions in Europe” in the sector and stressed the importance of Gesy for people in economic difficulty and people with chronic illnesses.

He added that now, “the central element of the effort surrounding Gesy should be a continuous goal to upgrade its quality.”

Chrysanthos Savvides warned that checks must be put in place to ward against “abuses and non-transparent procedures”, saying “we want Gesy to be strengthened. We want it to be the pride of this people’s achievements.”

He also called for more “innovative drugs” to be introduced to Cyprus.