The 1st June 2019, is a historic day for Cyprus, as it introduced the first phase of its new-found national General Health System (GHS), run by the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) (https://www.gesy.org.cy/sites/Sites?d=Desktop&locale=en_US&lookuphost=/en-us/&lookuppage=home-en).
The significance of the health system cannot be refuted, since Cypriot citizens cease to be the only ones in the European Union without a comprehensive, universal health plan (http://www.reporter.com.cy/local-news/article/507006/).
It has been recorded that an impressive number of 510,000 citizens have registered so far to the GHS. Note that the current population of Cyprus is 1,197,779 (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/cyprus-population/).
For the smooth operation of the GHS, 350 personal doctors and 140 pediatricians are needed to be registered. Currently, there are 358 registered personal doctors, with 47 more expected, as well as 105 pediatricians, with 17 more to be included.
It should also be noted that NCR is responsible for the software development of the GHS (http://archive.inbusinessnews.com/inbusiness/news/business/ict918/sthn-ncr-katakyrothhke-h-anaptyksh-toy-logismikoy-gia-to-gesy).
No major problems were recorded on Monday, 3rd June, as more than 4,500 people sought medical help. The majority of issues faced in all hospitals revolved around providers not being fully acquainted with the GHS software and beneficiaries being inadequately informed on the services provided by GHS and their prices (https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/06/03/gesy-passes-first-big-test-day/).
Anticipating the difficulties that would arise, the HIO had on Monday, set up an information centre at the entrance of the Nicosia general hospital.
The Health Minister of Cyprus, Mr. Constantinos Ioannou, stated, on Saturday, 1st June, that the aim of the GHS is to upgrade and modernize the healthcare sector (https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/04/06/gesy-to-upgrade-the-health-sector/).
It is important to note that the first phase of the GHS, covers only outpatient health services, including personal doctors for adults and children, outpatient specialists, pharmacies and pharmaceuticals and laboratories.
The second phase, which is the full GHS implementation, will be completed by June 2020. This will cover inpatient care; accident and emergency and ambulance; nurses, mid-wives and allied health professionals; preventive dental care; and palliative care and rehabilitation (https://www.gesy.org.cy/sites/Sites?d=Desktop&locale=en_US&lookuphost=/en-us/&lookuppage=hiopresentationspage).
The main characteristics of the GHS are a universal coverage of the whole population, regardless of income and health status; contributions are based on income, a healthy population for the sick and affluent for the poor; it provides equal access for beneficiaries and has free choice of providers in the private and public sector; as well as provides comprehensive healthcare services.
Furthermore, the beneficiaries to the GHS are the Republic of Cyprus citizens, who have their ordinary residence in the Republic of Cyprus; the European Union citizens, who have their residence and work in the Republic of Cyprus or have acquired the right of permanent residence; and third country nationals, who have their ordinary residence in Cyprus and meet the provisions of the Cyprus National Law.
Other issues that have arisen, include the fact that a few EU nationals are still struggling to register with the GHS, or that the GHS software is leading to lab test errors (https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/06/04/gesy-software-leading-to-lab-test-errors/) (https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/06/04/eu-nationals-still-struggling-to-register-with-gesy/).
However, as problems and challenges arise, they are being tackled with, in the process. An epitome example is the Cabinet of the Republic of Cyprus agreeing, on the 5th June, on temporary measures to allow access to the services of the national health scheme to those beneficiaries who have been unable to register for reasons relating to residence permits and citizenship (https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/06/05/cabinet-grants-gesy-access-to-foreign-nationals-without-paperwork/).
Moreover, the Health Minister declared that everyone who has registered for the national health scheme will be issued a European health insurance card so they can receive free medical care in the European Economic Area when they travel abroad (https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/05/22/free-european-healthcare-for-all-gesy-patients-announced/).
Although the GHS is not ideal, the HIO has made contingency plans to tackle potential problems arising from the national health scheme (https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/05/31/contingency-plans-drawn-up-in-case-of-gesy-problems/) (https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/05/31/contingency-plans-drawn-up-in-case-of-gesy-problems/).
You can contact the GHS, via telephone number 17000, or +357 22017000, if calling from abroad, for more information.