Long waiting lists signal GHS failings

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Long patient waiting lists have reappeared at state hospitals, with the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) conceding it has failed to make good its promise to eradicate treatment delays.

The head of the HIO, Stavros Michael, made the confession at a hearing before the House Health Committee while presenting the budget for the General Healthcare System (GHS).

Abuse of the system by providers, waiting lists for appointments with a doctor or other health service providers, medicine shortages and the non-inclusion of innovative treatments in the GHS were criticisms put before the HIO.

Michael acknowledged weakness in the national health system introduced two and a half years ago, noting that his organisation’s priority is to ensure the viability of the GHS and its budget.

He told MPs that the Health Ministry had asked the organisation to introduce cuts, which they have.

“However, if we see that we have come out short, we will submit a supplementary budget,” said Michael.

He said the budget is increased by about €40 mln, earmarked for purchasing innovative medicines.

Michael noted that the HIO recognises that these medications have not been included so far in the GHS is a distortion that the organisation is working on fixing in 2023.

On reports of abuse of the GHS, Michael said abuses recorded involve a small minority of GHS service providers.

Social democrat EDEK leader Marinos Sizopoulos said that “long waiting lists are a failure of the HIO”.

The HIO budget has a deficit of €60 mln.

“This deficit, however, is not an administrative or operational deficit, but it is due to development plans in the pipeline,” said Michael.

He pledged the HIO “will be moving forward trying to build a culture of creating surpluses, ensuring the viability of the GHS”.