Patient backlash at fat cat GHS doctors

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Cyprus patient organisations are fuming over a small number of specialist doctors raking over €500,000 a year from the General Healthcare System, while there is limited access to vital drugs.

In comments to Phileleftheros daily, the head of the Cyprus Patients Associations Federation, Marios Kouloumas, said: “We cannot stand by and watch as some doctors receive fat cheques from the General Healthcare System, while there are people who have no access to the medication they need”.

He argued that while patients demand new medicines into the GHS, some doctors are paid amounts close to €600,000.

“This being said, we do not wish to throw out the basket because of some bad apples.

“We do, however, wish to point out that the system needs to be rationalised,” argued Kouloumas.

The patients’ association argues the Health Insurance Organisation has the largest share of responsibility in shaping the General Healthcare system.

A report compiled by the state’s Audit Office pointed at possible abuse of the system by a few doctors.

It points out that some specialist doctors are becoming richer by more than €600,000 a year on the back of the GHS.

From the Audit Office, Marios Petrides told Phileleftheros that a married couple of gynaecologists received €1.4 mln for outpatient services offered to GHS beneficiaries.

He referred to a doctor who, in his 2017 tax statement, declared an income of €36,000, while in 2018 and 2019, he had not filed a tax statement, only to claim over €600,000 in 2020 from the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) as payment for services.

According to the report, a specialist doctor was compensated with €870,742 in 2020 for outpatient services, while 11 specialists had an income of over €500,000.

At the same time, the earnings of one individual GP for children reached €421,283, while 67 specialist doctors had annual earnings over € 300,000.

Budget deficit

Petrides argued the HIO operates with a budget deficit, which is prohibited by law.

“The excuse that costs have gone up due to the pandemic has to stop”.

He urged the HIO to put its house in order by tabling balanced budgets.

“If they cannot do this, then we call on the Cabinet and the House to step in.”

The Audit Office will be presented before the  House Audit Committee, as MPs will go through the HIO’s budget request this week.

“We call on HIO to conform with the relative legislation, putting an end to abuses,” said Petrides.

HIO general manager Andreas Papaconstantinou said only a small percentage of specialist doctors receive large amounts in compensation.

He claimed the Audit Office report exaggerated the earnings by specialist physicians.

“Hyperbole. Some 72% of specialist doctors received around €27,000 for services in 2021.

“Just 4.4% of the 1,514 specialist doctors were compensated with more than €300,000 from the General Health System,” said Papaconstantinou.

He further argued the introduction of the General Health System had put an end to tax evasion practices followed by doctors in the years before it was established.

“The GHS has made a significant contribution towards tackling this phenomenon.

“All earnings made by doctors through the GHS are subject to taxation.”