The Government delivers a modern and resilient health care system with quality treatment and care services for every citizen, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday, speaking during a presentation at the Presidential Palace, which is part of a series of events reviewing, by pillar, his ten-year administration.
Regarding reforms to strengthen the health system, President Anastasiades began with the implementation of the General Healthcare System (GHS), the largest reform in the history of the Republic of Cyprus, he said.
"Predictions of collapse or failure of the effort to modernise the health sector were disproved when, with the implementation of the Plan, citizens and gradually health professionals began to embrace it, realising that it was a plan that met the expectations of all citizens", he stressed, adding that according to the latest data, 85% of all doctors, 96% of clinical laboratories, 97% of pharmacies and 58 hospitals have contracted with the GHS, covering about 90% of the total number of available beds.
At the same time, he said that the Government has taken actions to combat exploitation and eliminate corruption, while actions such as the preparation of a bill to introduce the institution of the "Patient Advocate" and the purchase of special software and cooperation with experts to analyse inpatient cases to identify abuse and/or fraud have been launched to further strengthen the protection network.
The implementation of the innovative e-Health system, which will be fully operational in December 2024 and will provide electronic access to all necessary information on patients' medical records, President Anastasiades continued, is undeniably linked to the operation of the GHS.
A third point concerned the clustering of health centres and the extension of their operating hours, which resulted, as noted, to 14 out of the 38 total health centres across Cyprus currently operating until 7.30pm, while another 8 centres in rural areas operate on a 24-hour basis.
The President also said that an Ambulance Call Control Coordinating Centre was established, which operates on a 24-hour basis nationwide, as well as 13 new ambulance stations, while thanks to the strengthening of ambulance staffing, the response time over the last decade has been halved.
The second section of the presentation was on the Government's investment in the health sector, which was greater than ever before in the country's history, according to the President.
"It is noteworthy that the budget of the Ministry of Health for 2022 amounts to 1.05 billion euros, constituting 15% of the total state budget, while the Ministry's budget for 2013 included expenditures of 585 million euros, constituting 5.6% of the total budget," he said, adding that the Government has implemented or is implementing development projects worth 351 million euros that meet long-standing demands and constitute key infrastructure for the functioning of the health system.
He also spoke of the special emphasis placed on the logistical infrastructure supporting public hospitals, with investments in medical equipment during the period 2013-2021 amounting to 89 million euros, with another 24 million euros expected to be spent this year. According to President Anastasiades compared to the five-year period 2008-2012, the average annual expenditure on medical equipment increased by 85%.
In support of the above, Anastasiades also referred to the recent 2021 report by OXFAM, which credited Cyprus for the significant increase in investment in the health sector in recent years, noting that Cyprus, compared to 161 countries surveyed, has recorded the largest increase in spending compared to 2020.
The third section included references to policies and actions related to medication, with the Government moving forward in this area in updating the prices of medicines annually, as opposed to previous years where this was not done, strengthening the prescription list, which now includes 2,100 pharmaceutical products, compared to the 1,300 included in the 2013 formulary, with the cost for the purchase of medicines by the Health Insurance Organisation in 2021 amounting to 231 million euros, of which the costs borne by patients were only 34 million euros.
The fourth section concerned the implementation of national strategies and policies in the health sector, as well as the support of specific patient groups, where since taking office the Government has adopted and is implementing 14 national strategies, which, as the President of the Republic said, are concerned with raising public awareness, prevention, early diagnosis, improving access to treatment, systematic epidemiological surveillance and efforts to promote health in areas such as diabetes, cancer, thalassaemia, dementia, etc.
With regard to the financial support of the State to associations, institutions and other bodies that support special groups of patients, Anastasiades said that from 2013 to date, the Ministry of Health has disbursed over 27 million euros, adding that with regard to kidney patients, a transnational agreement was signed with Israel in the field of cross-kidney transplants, while in the framework of the GHS, and taking into account the views of patients themselves and with an estimated annual expenditure of 6 million euros, the Government is proceeding with regulating palliative care for patients.
The fifth point dealt with the management of the pandemic, "a crisis which our small country has managed to respond to better than countries with stronger and longer-lasting health systems", President Anastasiades noted.
Referring more specifically to the Government's actions, he spoke about the strengthening of the necessary infrastructure, with the expansion of the Famagusta General Hospital so that it can function as a reference hospital, at a cost of 3 million euros, and the construction of a second intensive care unit at the Nicosia General Hospital, making available to all not only free hospitalisation but also the free provision of both tests and vaccines, an expenditure which, up to last month, exceeded 280 million euros, noting that according to the latest statistics Cyprus has the lowest mortality rate and the fewest lock-down days among EU countries.
The President added the special sponsorship schemes to support businesses, workers who were severely affected by the pandemic, as well as the unemployed, benefiting 220 thousand people and 28 thousand businesses at a cost of more than 3 billion euros.
The sixth and final section dealt with the provisions of the health pillar included in the 'Cyprus-Tomorrow' Plan, which, according to President Anastasiades, contain additional spending beyond what is foreseen in the annual budgets, amounting to more than 80 million euros, with reforms and development investments that will contribute to increasing the preparedness, resilience and quality of services of the General Healthcare System.
Among the points of the section, Anastasiades singled out the strengthening of the Makareio Hospital worth €23 million, the first phase of the creation of a mental health hospital, worth €6.8 million, the creation and/or expansion of dialysis units in all public hospitals, worth €6 million, and the establishment of a new hospital for the treatment of patients in all public hospitals, worth €6 million. The strengthening and upgrading of the Limassol and Pafos General Hospitals, with a total expenditure of €4.7 million, and the establishment of a National Clinical Documentation Centre, worth €3 million.
"Based on what I have mentioned, I believe that our country has managed in recent years, thanks to the bold and targeted policies we have adopted and with the decisive contribution of medical, paramedical and nursing staff, as well as the trust shown by the citizens, to raise the level of health services provided to the benefit of every citizen-patient," President Anastasiades said.
At the same time, he noted that there are still problems, weaknesses and actions that need to be taken in order to create an even more effective, modern health system, a resilient health system that will follow best practices based on the world's leading systems.
"This was our vision when we assumed power in 2013, this is the vision we are implementing through the work we will deliver to the next administration and it is this continuous upgrading, both quantitatively and qualitatively, of the health network that was the specific policy objectives adopted in the 'Cyprus-Tomorrow Plan'," Anastasiades concluded, thanking the former and current Ministers of Health, "without whose contribution the vision for health would not have been implemented."