When health of a nation puts the patient last
There has been deafening background noise over the doctors and nurses not wanting to sign up for a Cyprus national health service that will be free for all Cypriots whether rich or poor.
And there seems to lie the problem in a scheme that treats everyone equally and aspires to deliver top quality healthcare free of charge at the point of access. It almost sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
What, Cypriots given a choice on how they want their healthcare delivered and having the option to go private at no extra cost or inconvenience – can this be for real?
Strange that an establishment based on privilege, unfairness, inequality and injustice would seek to provide a system of universal care where, theoretically, the treatment you receive doesn’t depend on your social class or income status.
This is the type of social reform that the people should be welcoming with open arms – no more than that, they should be demanding why this didn’t happen yesterday.
We are slowly beginning to realise why this didn’t happen yesterday because too many people have much to lose. What would insurance firms do if companies stop paying for private medical cover because the state started providing a functioning, high-quality service?
It wouldn’t make sense for employers to pay a contribution to the state, while also investing in private medical insurance if the service available is of the same standard.
Unfortunately, Cyprus wasn’t built on equality for all, but on the premise that the system can be loaded to work for the rich and powerful groups that control economic and political power.
Arguably, the government is trying to give something back by fixing a dysfunctional health system that is failing on many different levels to deliver the best possible treatment. It is under pressure, understaffed and underfunded.
Visiting an emergency ward or going to see a doctor is not an outcome to be relished, while stepping inside a state hospital fills one with trepidation and copious amounts of self-doubt.
Based on personal experience, I always feel that people of a certain age and disposition that go into hospital will be lucky to come out the other side, it’s that kind of a lottery.
Cyprus has some good hospitals but most them are private, effectively creating a two-tier system where the poor, elderly and low-income workers have to endure what is thrown at them – waiting lists, chaotic hospital outpatients, broken equipment and casualty wards under pressure.
There is also a general attitude toward patients who are treated more like a nuisance or a number to tick-off rather than someone in need of respect and reassurance.
It’s as if the system has drained the care out of health workers.
I’m sure if someone bothered to do the research, all kinds of unsavoury statistics to do with our state healthcare system would shock us – like how many patients die over the weekend due to a lack of staff on duty.
Nevertheless, the recent debate about the national health service has centred around the doctors rather than how it will affect the public.
None of the doctors like the national health service because it will hurt their pockets and not give them the freedom they now have to rake in the cash where the tax man can’t see.
This has even been suggested by President Anastasiades who implied that tax evasion among private doctors was considerable which is why they don’t want to be put under the microscope with state contracts.
Doctors also argue that the government isn’t spending enough on the new national health service, although I’m not sure where they want this money to be spent – most probably on salaries and perks.
Nobody denies that doctors and nurses deserve to be well paid, but there does seem to be some union-type bullyboy tactics being applied by the medical association to whip its members into line.
Cypriots are also to blame for allowing the health agenda to be hijacked into a row between government and doctors when there is so much that needs to be put right, like mental healthcare.
Would the doctors behave in this way if there was public pressure for them to directly contribute to improving the nation’s health by dismantling a system that discriminates between the wealthy and the not so rich?
The government has also made a bad fist of promoting a new dawn in Cyprus healthcare by not explaining why it is necessary and the benefits it will bring.
Strangely enough, opposition party AKEL has not been waving its flag of equality in the health sector for working class families. Maybe the nurses and doctors have valid arguments about the feasibility of the scheme, but for now, it just sounds like a power play by health professionals to protect what they hold; patient concern appears someway down the agenda.
Sounds like the new system will end up like the old one with the patient being the elephant in the room.