In times of socio-economic crisis and economic inequality, the safeguarding of the right to health and medical care has never been more necessary. Health is a right and social commodity that a state is obliged to provide for its citizens.
The health sector in Cyprus is in a bad state, on the one hand, due to the increasing commercialization and on the other, as a result of the failure of public hospitals to meet the needs of a modern, humane and patient-centred and quality health care system.
Competitiveness and profiteering speculation lead health becoming a right for the privileged few who have the financial capability, at the same time as a large section of society is excluded from having the same level of access to health care. This is precisely why the full implementation of the National Health Scheme (NHS) is so imperative.
Today’s reality – the NHS
On 1st June 2019, through conflicts, political unassertiveness, indecisiveness and regressions, but also because of the deliberate policy of downgrading the public health system imposed by the Anastasiades – DISY government, the implementation of a single-insurance NHS began. The NHS began because AKEL strongly supported its implementation, both inside and outside parliament.
The progress of the NHS to date confirms the great need Cypriot society had for a NHS, particularly those on low and middle incomes, for a universal, equitable and accessible health system based on solidarity. The NHS currently facing problems too. It is imperative that we systematically monitor its implementation and functioning and intervene decisively to resolve problems, improve the level of services provided and safeguard the philosophy and principles underlying the NHS.
At the same time, it is important to strengthen the independence of the Health Insurance Agency to ensure sound administration, the separation of powers and protection from political interferences in the management of the fund, as well as from phenomena of non-transparency and corruption.
The role of the public sector is central
The austerity policy and the overload of work – due mainly to the economic crisis – in the public sector have inevitably led to the creation of waiting lists, queues, shortages in medicines and consumables, and other serious day-to-day operational problems. Excessive workloads, low morale, low incomes and frustration are driving doctors and nurses out of public hospitals which further aggravates the situation.
The government, following a policy of delays, has led the public sector to stagnation, decay, social defamation, contraction and marginalization. At the same time, the government has extended the dangerous phenomenon of monopolization and selling off of services by downgrading and dismantling the corresponding state services (services for cancer patients, etc.). Projects that were promoted, for example transplant and radiotherapy projects, have been led to dissolution or decline.
We support the modernization and reorganization of state hospitals to make them more efficient and competitive by maintaining their social role and character. Hospitals must be non-profit and socially beneficial organisations, with autonomy in decision-making, financially self-reliant and self-sustaining. A key aspect of their operation is the establishment of an internal and external audit mechanism and the exercise of annual financial scrutiny by an independent state mechanism, as well as the carrying out of systematic qualitive control.
To fulfill the goal for public hospitals to constitute the backbone of the NHS and a point of reference for the Health Sector, and play their role effectively within the NHS environment, it is necessary to:
- Reach an agreement on the organizational structure, set-up and staffing of Nurses and Medical Centres, which will be strengthened through the agreed provisions for the Autonomy of State Hospitals within the framework of the NHS.
- Introduction of modern, scientifically sound clinical protocols and guidelines and systematic qualitive control in all hospitals to protect both patients, as well as working people.
- An essential and integral factor in upgrading the health system is the overall improvement of the position of Health Professionals and field workers in terms of scientific, professional, working conditions, pay, pensions and employment contracts. We insist on the full and exclusive employment of doctors in public hospitals.
- Strengthening of public hospitals with all the necessary clinical and specialized units and the upgrading of their infrastructure in general.
- Creation and strengthening, where needed, of Health Centres to fully cover the entire population.
To upgrade the Health Sector we propose the following:
- Comprehensive education policy for professionals employed in the health sector.
- Adoption and implementation of therapy methods with validity, flexibility and a high degree of success.
- Full computerization of hospitals, the introduction of e-health, which has been held up. Organization and operation of an agency to collect and credibly analyse statistical data for research purposes and improvement of the healthcare provided.
- Change in the organizational structure of the Ministry of Health, so that it is line with the demands of the NHS, which assigns to the Ministry a guiding and strategic role.
- Implementation of the custom of Medical Work in enterprises as provided by law
- Introduction and expansion of prevention policies on an organised basis to reduce illness/injury.
- Upgrading of the services provided to the disabled and paraplegics.
- Further expansion and strengthening of community nursing.
- Creation of an independent Institute of Forensic Sciences (IDE), which will include departments that have so far been scattered under the auspices of various Ministries and Services
- Establishment of a Chamber for the Promotion of Medical Tourism in Cyprus and the promotion of synergies with the aim of attracting investments for specialized health farms in rural and mountainous areas.
- Creation of a National Medicines Agency with the responsibility of authorizing safe, effective and quality medicines and their monitoring after their circulation.
- Provision of incentives for the further development of pharmaceutical research, innovation and industry in Cyprus.
- Foundation of a Drug Information Centre and introduction of the Clinical Pharmacist custom in the environment of autonomous hospitals.
- Establishment of an independent Schools Medical Service with the cooperation of government and private doctors, which will expand its services to nutrition and hygiene issues in all schools.
- Granting of new approved, specialized pharmaceutical products on the basis of modern, scientifically documented protocols.
- Creation of reference centres and elaboration of a national strategy for each group of patients.
- The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Cyprus was established by the Christofias Government and must be completed without any unnecessary conflicts, through democratic and transparent processes, creating synergies with clinical practitioners so we can achieve its complete operation and development. The Faculty of Medicine and Academic Medicine should be a key factor in the ongoing modernization of health, research and development, as well as the continuous upgrading of Medical Science.
- Adopt holistic policies to address rare diseases.
- Strengthening the institution of rehabilitation centres and their integration into the NHS.