The state health services organisation (Okypy) needs to rein in its expenses if it is to continue receiving state grants, officials warned in parliament on Thursday.

Health ministry officials and MPs were discussing the auditor-general’s recent special report on the Nicosia general hospital. Among other things, the dossier flagged excessive overtime pay to doctors – with the most striking case being that of a physician who, over and above his €76,000 salary made €187,000 in overtime during 2022.

The discussion in parliament lasted three hours.

Christina Yiannaki, permanent secretary at the health ministry, said that unless Okypy manages to rationalise its deficits, the ministry would seek “responsibilities and accountability”.

Likewise, a finance ministry official recalled that Okypy has put in a request for an extension to the state grant it currently receives – and which has an expiry date.

He said extending the grant would be linked to an action plan, designed to lead Okypy to financial viability.

“We won’t issue a blank cheque,” he added.

Citing data, the official said total annual spending on healthcare amounts to €2.2 billion – with €1.7 billion coming from contributions from the insured and the rest from the health ministry.

Asked by Akel MP Irini Charalambidou directly whether Okypy is mismanaging its funds, Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides answered unequivocally: yes.

Michaelides noted that Okypy must set its financial house in order by June 1.

The auditor-general came back to the issue of overtime pay to doctors. In 2022, he recalled, €4.7 million in overtime was paid to 208 doctors as part of horizontal incentives, plus another €2.2 million as part of vertical incentives.

Horizontal incentives are those which are provided to all; vertical incentives are provided based on performance.

Michaelides also cited an incident that he said left a bad impression on Okypy. He referred to a trip to London taken by former health minister Michalis Hadjipantela and Okypy director Kypros Stavridis.

The two were in London attending a conference there. They spent two nights in the city. According to the auditor-general, Stavridis stayed in a luxury room, costing €2,480 for both nights – whereas Hadjipantela stayed in a cheaper room.

“This shows you the prevalent culture,” Michaelides remarked.

Responding, Stavridis said he has already produced a document that shows he did not stay in a hotel suite. The Okypy boss also said he had not personally seen the invoice, and that the room was booked at the last moment.