Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela is outraged at the news that two private hospitals turned away two emergency patients on Christmas Eve, claiming they had no doctors on duty due to the holidays.
As it emerged on Thursday, two women who had sought medical help for serious medical conditions from different Nicosia private hospitals were told to go to Nicosia General as they had no medical staff on call.
Reportedly, one was an elderly woman with a heart aneurism and another with a serious gastroenterological emergency.
“These practices are unacceptable,” Hadjipantela told Phileleftheros daily.
The minister appeared to be outraged at the news.
“I have personally asked the HIO (Health Insurance Organisation) to look into the matter and impose exemplary penalties within the framework of the law.
“It is not acceptable to turn patients away, sending them elsewhere, claiming that doctors are on holiday”.
Hadjipantela said that he personally has handled the two complaints and is convinced they are genuine.
“Health problems don’t go away because it’s Christmas.
“They can’t choose which cases to cater to and send the rest to the already overcrowded first aid departments of state hospitals,” said Hadjipantela, implying this is common practice.
“Hospitals should start acting responsibly and not choose their patients depending on how complicated a medical condition is, or how profitable it could be.”
He said the HIO needs to intervene and take on its responsibilities.
The Cyprus Patients Association also issued a statement, noting this is not the first time they have reported cases of private hospitals selectively treating patients.
“Someone should take responsibility and put an end to these practices.
“It is incomprehensible that a health institution would turn away patients in need of emergency treatment, claiming that doctors are on holiday,” said Marios Kouloumas, the head of the association.
Acting head of the HIO, Andreas Papaconstantinou, said: “No matter how angry the minister is with the incidents, for penalties to be imposed, a probe has to be conducted”.
In comments to Astra Radio, Papaconstantinou confirmed that the HIO has evidence that hospitals selectively treat patients, noting that not all hospitals are equipped to handle complex medical emergencies.
“To improve health services for patients with emergencies, we are currently negotiating with hospitals to set up a rotating system with the creation of on-call hospitals with all specialities, which will operate 24 hours a day and manage all types of emergencies.”