By Jonathan Shkurko and Elias Hazou

 

Health Minister Michael Damianos on Thursday praised his ministry’s accomplishments during the first year of President Nikos Christodoulides’ tenure, stressing “the significant strides made in providing higher quality health services to patients.”

Damianos presented an overview of the ministry’s performance in a press conference, underlining its commitment to protecting and serving patients “through robust health policies.”

“Our goal is for every patient to receive quality care, the best possible treatment,” he said.

Damianos lauded last month’s implementation of the expenses coverage plan for patients sent abroad for treatment and their escorts.

“A longstanding request of patients has now become a reality,” he said. He also hailed the revision of the subsidy scheme for infertility treatment, which saw the amount granted in the scheme rise from €2,500 to €3,500.

Damianos also mentioned the preparation of new health strategies, including a better management of patients dealing with mental health problem and nutritional disorders.

He also pledged to promote a new cancer prevention programme.

“On top of that, the update of national strategy for diabetes and rare diseases is expected to contribute to improving prevention and quality of life for patients,” he said.

“The government continues to work on upgrading the legislative framework to ensure the effective operation of healthcare services. We are now working on several legislative drafts concerning the operations of rehabilitation centres and university hospitals and clinics.”

Referring to other projects that have enhanced care services in Cyprus, Damianos said that in February 2024, the new haemodialysis unit at Paphos hospital was put into full operation, as were the pulmonology clinics at Troodos hospital.

“In addition, we approved investments in infrastructures and medical equipment in public hospitals worth €22 million,” Damianos concluded.

Other healthcare-related strategies telegraphed by the minister have to do with transplants and dealing with eating disorders.

He also announced that within the month healthcare practitioners would begin administering methadone to patients who need it. Methadone is used to treat opioid use disorder, and also acts as an anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication.

Another upcoming innovation is the creation of the office of the ‘Patient’s Advocate’. The relevant draft bill, sent to the attorney-general for legal vetting, is set to be tabled to parliament in May.

Elsewhere, the minister noted that during 2023, 46 novel treatments for 17 ailments were included on the list of medicines in Gesy, the national healthcare system.

“These novel therapies concern both inpatient and outpatient medications, administered either in a hospital environment or made available at hospital pharmacies.”

Taking a question about long waiting times at emergency & accident departments at hospitals, Damianou said the government acknowledges these problems and is working on solutions.

He noted that in 2023 there went operational an A&E department for children at the Nicosia general hospital. It has since received more than 10,000 minors.

“And with the new A&Es in the private sector, obviously the numbers will come down. Problems do exist…but things are better than before. There’s always room for improvement.”

On a personal note, Damianou said the press conference coincides with his first 100 days in office. He was appointed health minister in January of this year.