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Health minister ‘concerned’ about sustainability of state hospitals

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou (right)

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Saturday he is concerned about the sustainability of state hospitals due to lapses presented in the state health services (Okypy) budget, which oversees the running of those hospitals.

In an interview with daily Politis, Ioannou said: “If someone looks at the budget of Okypy for 2021 they will find that it has a deficit of €140 million. How is this deficit reduced? Certainly not by hiring. You know, not hiring is sometimes the easy way out. However, the existing staff needs to be more productive. Okypy should reorganise the services offered by public hospitals in order to be efficient and to serve patients in the best possible way.”

He added by hiring, Okypy would not be able to reduce its deficits, and state aid to the hospitals will only be for five years.   

The second phase of the national health scheme (Gesy) is a problem largely for the providers and not the beneficiaries.

He said: “The truth is the [coronavirus] pandemic turned everything on its head. The lack of increased contribution to the system, and the mitigation of contributions from the private sector have caused problems to the Gesy reserves.”

Commenting on Okypy’s negotiations with doctors, which would grant them a €1,850 monthly pay rise, Ioannou said the offer by the state health services was ‘generous’.

Reports said Okypy agreed to afford €21m in incentives – €1,850 per month for each doctor over and above their wages, with the potential of increasing the amount up to €2,600 per month depending on productivity.

Ioannou said the agreement being examined should include a higher incentive rate for the doctors, in hopes of increasing their productivity.

However, he added the system should not be taken advantage of by doctors seeking to get more incentives, and not focusing on the quality of their work.

“The issue is to offer quality health services in a patient-centric system, where doctors will perform to the maximum of their capabilities,” he said.

Asked if the hospitals need more nurses, who Okypy will meet on Tuesday, he said at a meeting with the President they discussed the issue and invited Okypy to look into the matter.

Following a meeting with nurses unions on Friday, Okypy spokesman Charlambos Charilaou told the Cyprus News Agency the meeting aimed at recording the immediate needs so that they can hire the necessary staff.

State employee union Pasydy’s nurses branch head Prodromos Argyrides on Saturday said Okypy did not present nurses with any proposals.

Charilaou said that this week it was decided that an additional budget is proposed to cover the needs that have arisen for new services.

Inpatient care services under Gesy were introduced this week with state nurses warning they would take drastic measures unless the serious understaffing problem in state hospitals was addressed.

One of the unions, Pasyno, said that though they had agreed with Okypy at the beginning of May that 350 nurses needed to be hired, there has been no progress since.

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