Cyprus rolled out a shiny new healthcare delivery service to improve the standard of treatment on every level and, hopefully, rid disparities between the haves and the have nots in medicine.
Under the General Healthcare System Cypriots were introduced to the GP structure where everyone had a family/personal doctor. It serves as the first line of defence in the upgraded care system.
Although we are all paying for the GHS through wage contributions, healthcare access is free, and standards should not be dependent on whether you can afford private treatment or not.
In theory, there is a coordinated approach to treating the sick where hospital accident and emergency wards are not overwhelmed by people who shouldn’t be there while resources are, theoretically, allocated more fairly.
Certainly, the GHS has had its teething troubles, especially with doctors looking to fight it and private hospitals giving it the cold shoulder early doors.
The software also buckled under the strain while some foreign nationals were initially left out.
But many medical institutions, along with private labs and chemists, have understood that Cypriots want a joined-up system that puts the patient first regardless of wealth.
Private hospitals and clinics are also aware that a two-tier health system is not to their benefit if the GHS is promoting freedom of choice and improved quality of care.
Granted, the private sector is not populated by good Samaritans as it can smell the financial benefits of offering services to the state.
Like everywhere else, healthcare is a business where the bottom line is making a profit, nobody wants to be left out of the GHS jamboree – because we are paying for it.
It is also difficult to fathom the amount of investment that is going towards improving standards, the quality and success rate of healthcare delivery in Cyprus.
Typical for Cyprus, the GHS argument has been hijacked by doctors arguing among themselves on whether the system will work or not while complaining everything is a mess because staff aren’t getting paid enough.
Many in the state health sector see their job as a privileged position that deserves reward, few voices are standing up for patients or demanding they get a better deal.
Ever since the GHS was launched last year there has been little focus on what needs to improve for the patient or to even discuss what the everyday experience is like.
The local media seems more transfixed in giving a platform to unions or health institutions moan about the government, rather than promote saving lives.
No public debate
There seems to be no public discourse about waiting times for serious operations, how cancer patients are treated, the lack of hospital beds, investment in new technology and methods.
Or why people who need repeat prescriptions have their medicine locked in the GHS system for 30 days when their tablets run out after 28 days.
Visiting a hospital is never going to be a pleasant encounter but the Cyprus experience is way off the charts with seemingly nobody caring to change the situation that many patients endure.
As a society we should not be tolerating such a state of affairs by demanding, for example, the government sets targets for waiting times at A&E before you are seen by a doctor.
Have officials ever looked at death rates in hospitals to see if any anomalies are pointing to a deficit in care?
The government has to be complimented on its determination to introduce a national health system, but it must also show a willingness to improve our hospitals, so they are properly staffed, managed and observe best practice for patients.
It would instil public confidence if there was more information available about the health system, such as the success rate of operations, waiting lists, technological advancements or introduction of new drugs.
Essentially, start a conversation about the weaknesses and strengths of our healthcare because without it there can be no progress or public trust in the GHS.
After all, the whole purpose of a national health service is to improve patient care with better outcomes in detection, prevention and cure.
Cyprus has no excuse not to have a top-class national health service but primarily, it needs to cultivate an ethos of care by putting the patient at the centre.
Healthcare also needs to be flexible in its approach to a changing society where mental illness is more prevalent, there are issues about gender identity and body shape while more children need access to psychological help.
Health affects us all, yet we are rather cavalier in our attitude in how its delivered, suffering is not the antidote.