Press Conference of the General Secretary of AKEL, S.Stefanou, on Public Health
17 November 2023, AKEL C.C. Press Office, Nicosia
The way public health is managed, but also the level of citizens’ relationship with it, is a benchmark for the level of any society.
In any modern state, health services must be provided on the basis of a comprehensive social plan. Planning which must ensure the following principles:
- Equality of access
- A high level of quality in health services
- Dignified treatment of patients and health professionals/workers
- Social solidarity and fairness in funding
As we enter the fourth year of the implementation of the GESY (National Health Scheme), we must make an objective assessment of the situation and speak without hiding anything about the current state of our health services.
The GESY is certainly a major achievement that has been embraced by Cypriot society. However, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that need to be addressed immediately for the system to be able to respond more effectively and adequately to the needs that exist. The question therefore arises as to whether the political will exists to do so and whether the relevant political measures are being taken to give the system a new dynamic and perspective in the conditions that have evolved.
Without being alarmist, we want to express our strong concern about developments in the public health sector.
This is because, on the one hand, hedge (investment) funds are aggressively intervening in the sector by buying up hospitals, laboratories and medical imaging, gradually defining the map and policy in the public health sector. On the other hand, various decisions taken by the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) and the state health services (OKYPY) are piling up problems that directly threaten the prospects of public hospitals surviving.
Therefore, while developments are racing ahead with the danger of fait accompli being imposed, the Government and the Ministry of Health seem to be passively monitoring the situation, at a time when they have the responsibility and role to protect public health, to plan and formulate policies to ensure the sustainability and quality of services provided under the GESY.
AKEL considers that immediate political intervention is needed at the highest level, so that the Ministry of Health and the OKYPY proceed with measures to effectively support public hospitals.
The responsibility for the development and upgrading of public hospitals belongs exclusively to the government, which must answer in practice what character it wants public hospitals to have and what measures it intends to take to support them.
If the goal for the Government remains equal, universal and non-discriminatory access to quality health care for all beneficiaries, then it must act without any further delay. To this end, we propose the following measures:
- Extend the period of financial support for public hospitals, at least for as long as the pandemic lasted.
- Development of the health sector on the basis of a central planning with the mapping of the country’s health map (capacity planning).
- The OKYPY should submit a roadmap for its strategic planning concerning the progress of its implementation which must regularly report to Parliament.
- The government should table pending bills such as those on rehabilitation centres, university clinics, ambulances, etc., after necessary consultation with all stakeholders.
- The budget for critical sectors such as Mental Health must be increased.
There is also a need to take measures with regard to OKYPY that should aim at:
- Drawing up of an agreement for collective agreements for health professionals and workers with OKYPY. This requires the intervention of the Government.
- Overall improvement of the position of health professionals and workers in the field, from a scientific and professional point of view.
- End the unacceptable practice of employing retired health professionals and the purchase of services system.
- Structural measures in the model of how OKYPY operates should be taken, as well as legislation to correct distortions.
The defence of the character and philosophy of the GESY, the effort to implement corrections and improvements and the demand for support and upgrading of public hospitals are issues of major importance and are among AKEL’s priorities.
We are always ready to support any effort within the correct framework, namely the provision of equality of access to a high level of health services for all citizens. However, this presupposes that the Government has the political will to act immediately in order to prevent developments that will have disastrous consequences for the public health sector and, by extension, for the overwhelming majority of Cypriot society.
On health issues, as on all issues concerning the everyday life of citizens, AKEL has repeated many times and has proven that it will support any efforts that are taken in the right direction.
Creatively but also dynamically, AKEL will demand what is an inalienable right: access for all citizens to quality health services.