Challenges exist and will continue to exist, Health Minister says

The Ministry of Health’s main concern is the better provision of health services to all citizens throughout their lives, Minister, Michael Damianos, has told CNA, one month after assuming his duties.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency on 17 February, he added that challenges exist and will continue to exist, but that the Ministry's objective is to move forward with solutions to existing problems and new problems that will arise.

In the interview with CNA and asked about the challenges he has faced since he took over as Health Minister, Damianos said that, certainly, the main concern for the Ministry of Health is “to ensure good quality health services to all citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, to all citizens within the General Healthcare System (GeSY).”

Another challenge, the Minister added, concerns the public hospitals, their staffing and their upgrading.

He said that a package of bills has been drafted, noting that the bills “need to be better prepared, agreed with the social partners, so that they can be tabled at the House of Representatives and be voted to become law, so that they can help both the Ηealth Ιnsurance Οrganisation (OAY) and the Ministry of Health to move forward with the upgrade of existing services having a better legislative framework."

Apart from that, he added, the establishment of national disease prevention programmes and the promotion of the National Health Strategy are also still pending.

“I believe that for the past month these are the key challenges we have before us at the Ministry of Health and they constitute our priorities,” he pointed out.

Asked if he believes there should be new legislation for the operation of GeSY and if he is happy with both the numbers and the services provided under the Plan, the Health Minister said that the legislation he is referring to is legislation that will frame GeSY.

"We are talking about legislations in terms of rehabilitation centres, care centres, the ambulance bills, even bills relating to university clinics or the patient ombudsman, and so on; these are legislations which will help the health sector and by extension GeSY itself. A new GeSY cannot be complete," he added.

There will be challenges, Damianos acknowledged, adding that "we will be able to deal with these challenges as we go forward, especially with regard to GeSY itself and OAY, through better checks, which the Organisation must carry out itself, because through the checks you can find more distortions and eliminate those providers who do not respect the system, so that the Health Plan itself will be better."

Invited to say what problems and challenges he has discussed in his early contacts with, among others, the State Health Services Organisation (OKYpY) and OAY and whether he thinks government funding should be increased, the Minister of Health said that as far as the OAY is concerned, the main challenge is better controls on all health care providers, while as far as the OKYpY is concerned, Damianos said that the services public hospitals provide should be upgraded.

Regarding government funding, Damianos said "we understand and we agree with the view of OKYpY, that because of the pandemic, their plan for self-sufficiency could not proceed as they might have planned, so they should have had more support."

"But this support can neither be indefinite, nor without timelines or without conditions, the legislation must be implemented. It is something that we need to look into immediately, in the next few months, but in order to receive the assistance, OKYpY must also help itself," he added.

Replying to a question on where the issue of collective agreements between OKYpY and the trade unions stands, Damianos said the two sides are very close to an agreement.

"There was a bigger gap in the past. It seems that everybody will move forward so that they will try to join forces for the health sector because it is facing serious challenges and we need to be united,” he noted.

“I am hopeful that in the next few days some of the individual issues will be resolved and there will be an agreement," he added. On whether he will have a new meeting with them, the Health Minister said if there is a need for another meeting, one will take place.

Health Minister Michael Damianos CNA 2

On the issue of streptococcus, but also the number of COVID cases and whether he was concerned, the Health Minister said there was one streptococcus case, which seems to have been treated well.

"There is no particular issue, so we don't think there is a health issue in Cyprus in terms of streptococcus. As far as coronavirus is concerned, cases are decreasing, the epidemiological situation is improving, so we don't think there is an issue. If the situation continues to improve, we can move forward with a significant change in the measures that were taken at the end of 2023 early 2024," he added.

Asked what results the opening of the World Health Organisation's office in Cyprus has produced so far, the Health Minister replied it would be premature to discuss results.

"We think that the contribution of WHO in Cyprus is very important. Several programmes and common goals can be promoted, common objectives, and the WHO can also help Cyprus move a step forward in the health sector,” he said.

“I also want to take the opportunity to thank them for the preparation of the Ministry of Health's strategy on mental health, which will be completed within 2024," he added.

Referring to the bills that are expected to be promoted soon, the Health Minister said that there are some bills that should have been promoted in the past or were promoted and discussed in the past.

"There are the European elections and the local government elections in June, so the Parliament will be closed for some time. This might not help, but we hope that within the year we will be able to move forward with these pieces of legislation as much as possible," he noted.

Damianos stressed that "our main concern as the Ministry of Health is to provide better health services to all citizens throughout their lifetime."

"Challenges exist and will continue to exist, our objective is to move forward with solutions to existing problems and new problems that will arise in the future. This is the goal and the role of the Ministry of Health, to promote and to set the policy, to support OAY and to proceed together with the supervision of the competent bodies, so that we can achieve our own goals, but also the goals of the Nikos Christodoulides' administration health program," he concluded. 

(Source: CNA)

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