The Health Insurance Organization (HIO), the State Health Services (Okypy), and the Minister of Health were reminded of their respective responsibilities in Cyprus’ healthcare system.

The prospect of a walkout by public sector doctors can thwart any new policy, as they did on Wednesday when they threatened to shut down the weekend clinics. For health authorities, the threat of a three-hour strike was all which was needed to reevaluate their plans.

Cyprus Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela announced a commission under the Cyprus Medical Association “to review all medical issues relating to weekend clinics” following a discussion on the matter. Is it possible that the minister was trying to save face after the postponing of HIO and Okypy weekend clinics?

Weekend clinics have been discussed for three years, according to HIO chairman Andreas Papaconstantinou, and three months of conversations with scientific businesses have taken place. On the other hand, Okypy, which manages the hospitals, is the HIO’s vendor, and it is not the HIO’s responsibility to negotiate with public sector doctor unions.

For its strike threat, the government doctors’ union, Pasyki, offered absurd justifications. He stated that a structured and fruitful discourse would have ensured patient quality. On the other hand, Koumas claimed that Okypy’s proposal “disrespected the medical community and infringed the rights of workers.” Was he referring to the right of government doctors to receive the maximum remuneration for weekend clinic work?

There’s no way to know for sure if this is an issue without his saying anything. In an interview, Koumas stated that his union was opposed to weekend clinics run by private doctors. Is the ownership of public hospitals by government doctors a factor in determining clinic staffing? He always complains about the lack of employees in the hospital, doesn’t he? Weekend clinics would be staffed by overworked hospital doctors.

Sadly, neither Okypy nor the HIO seems to be concerned about Pasyki retaining its market hegemony. Once the government takes over all of the clinics, doctors could strike for higher wages. The request must be denied, even if it means limiting Pasyki’s authority.

The minister will make a decision on Wednesday next week. That the government will grant Pasyki’s request is something we aim to avoid.

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