Army doctor charged GHS €226,000 in five months

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MPs were shocked to hear that four army doctors joined the General Health System and made over €400,000 in five months without permission from the Defence Ministry.

Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides told MPs of the House Audit Committee that four army doctors between June 2019, when they joined the GHS, and October of the same year, made €226,016, €48,508, €102,046, and €34,338, respectively.

According to Michaelides’ report, members of the armed forces could not engage in any other profession with or without payment until July 26, 2020, when the law was changed.

It allowed the defence minister to grant permission “in exceptional cases in consultation with the (National Guard) commander”.

None of the four doctors had secured permission before the law was amended, signing contracts with the GHS.

The head of the Audit Committee, Zacharias Koulias, said that the report is “evidence of the abuse of the health system at the expense of the citizens”.

Koulias wondered how it was possible for the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) to pay out €226,000 to a single doctor in five months.

“What was he doing? Working 48 hours a day?” said Koulias.

Michaelides said the case of the doctor who charged €226,000 was one of the first that helped his service to comprehend “the complete lack of control by the HIO”.

“One of the doctors was an ophthalmologist, and we found that he was logging into the system every 6 minutes.

“It was a glaringly problematic case which should have raised eyebrows at the HIO.”

Michaelides said the case had been brought to the attention of the Defence Ministry, which decided not to take any disciplinary action against the doctors following an internal probe.

He added that the probe findings were also handed to Attorney General George Savvides, who found no evidence of criminal offences.

Tax cheats

Furthermore, Michaelides called on the Tax Commissioner to investigate whether the additional income from the doctors has been declared.

A Tax Commissioner representative informed the House that it was decided to initiate criminal proceedings against one doctor, while the others cases were referred to district tax offices.

Defence Ministry official Nikos Mataiou said the arrangement that allows military doctors to offer services through the GHS was made to stop them from leaving the army.

Mataiou said that the report covers a transitional period, during which the law regulating the employment of doctors by the military was being reviewed.

He said the military no longer employs the doctor who charged the GHS €226,000.

On behalf of the HIO, chair Stavros Michael said the organisation is not an employer, and no legislation dictates the body should have checked whether the doctors were also employed elsewhere.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, in February last year, Michaelides found that 11 GHS doctors earned over €500,000 in 2020, with one topping the charts at a whopping €870,742.