A number of Turkish Cypriots, expats and other EU nationals are being denied access to the online registration platform of the newly launched national health service (GHS) due to a “glitch in the system”.
Turkish Cypriots and EU citizens who are permanent residents, work and contribute to the Social Insurance Fund and now the General Healthcare System have not been able to register due to software glitches.
A number of Turkish Cypriots, citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and other EU nationals working and living in the Republic have complained to the Financial Mirror that the online registration system does not allow them to enrol.
Even citizens from Greece, a country with which Cyprus has always had special agreements in place which enabled citizens of one country to be treated equally when relocated in the other, have been asked to present evidence of their residence.
“I was asked to present hard evidence of my address in Cyprus when I tried to register with the GHS. I have been working here for almost a decade and my details are with a number of state services. Surely, they should have been able to verify my address,” said Maria from Greece, who preferred not to reveal her surname.
A British expat who has been on the island for 50-odd years has also encountered problems while trying to register with the GHS. The expat – whose late husband was Cypriot – was not allowed to join the platform and had to first present authorities with evidence of her address and her yellow slip.
Emin Hikmet, a Turkish Cypriot working for almost two decades at the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, clearly disappointed by the treatment he has received and feels that this is directly linked to his ethnicity.
Despite living in the Republic for almost all his adult life and working for almost 20 years for CyBC, Emin was prompted by the system to provide evidence of his address in the south of the island.
“My question is why am I being asked for this, while my fellow Cypriot citizens are not? All I ask for is to be treated equally.”
Emin told the Financial Mirror that in written communication with the Health Insurance Organisation he was informed that this was the procedure for all the Turkish Cypriots applying to register with the GHS.
He is refusing to render any hard evidence of his address.
“My address is registered with systems of the Social Insurance and Tax Department.”
Asked to comment on the above cases, the President of the HIO’s board, Thomas Antoniou said that there was no intention to discriminate between citizens of the Republic.
“I personally would not tolerate such a mentality within the organization, while such a thing would go against the philosophy of the GHS, which is healthcare for all. The problems derive from issues to do with the Population Archive to which the online platform is connected to,” said Antoniou.
He said that they are aware of the ‘glitch’ and are working hard to resolve it so that all beneficiaries will be able to enjoy the GHS on equal terms.
Confirming issues caused by the system being connected to the state’s population archive, HIO’s general manager Athos Tsinontides, said that the glitch in the system is due to the fact that the archive is not updated with the latest details of all residents on the island.
He explained that linking the platform to the archive was necessary as the relative law acknowledges as beneficiaries all people living within the areas controlled by the Republic.
Furthermore, he said that, as far as the Turkish Cypriots are concerned, a decision was taken on a political level to accept as beneficiaries all Turkish Cypriots who work in the south to be included in the catalogue of beneficiarie
“However, we still need evidence to identify where the Turkish Cypriots applicants live and work in the areas controlled by the Republic,” said Tsinontides.
It is believed that issues could have been solved if the platform was linked to the Social Insurance and other archives such as the electoral register used in the latest European elections.
Some 80,000 Turkish Cypriots had been included on the register with their home address.
Beneficiaries of the GHS who have not been able for one reason or another to register with the system are prompted to contact the HIO’s helpline 17000.