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15 August, 2022
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Op-ed: Three years after the start of GESY, we look back at the vision and the challenges

GESY was implemented around the beginning of the pandemic on June 1st, 2019

by Constantinos Ioannou (former Minister of Health)

In a few days, it will be three years since the implementation of the General Health System (GESY) in Cyprus, the largest reform ever carried out in the country.

We can say that GESY's rite of passage occurred under very difficult conditions. It also shows us that it has the endurance to continue, allowing us to be optimistic about its future course.

Everyone remembers the agony, the doubt, and in some cases, the suspicion many faced at the start of its implementation.

The support of the people and the enthusiasm with which the citizens embraced the system, worked as a catalyst for its evolution. The response we received from the citizens made us even more determined to carry out the project for the good of thousands of people who were desperate for affordable access to medical services and medicines.

The implementation of GESY on June 1, 2019 coincided with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, and its enormous contribution to the effective management of the health crisis was acceptable. A year later, in the midst of the pandemic, we also proceeded with the implementation of the 2nd phase of GESY with the integration of in-hospital services from June 1, 2020.

We can say that GESY's rite of passage occurred under very difficult conditions.  It also shows us that it has the endurance to continue, allowing us to be optimistic about its future course.

Three years later, it is clear that the GESY has dispelled the clouds of doubt that overshadowed it in its first steps when contracted doctors, pharmacies, diagnostic centers and private hospitals were far and few between.

GESY now belongs to society and is part of the daily life of every citizen, to whom it offers fair and equal access to quality health services and medicines without exclusions. This was and remains the basic philosophy of the System, the reason why it was made and exists today. The citizen has the right to choose a doctor and a hospital, without the divisiveness in the past, while he can obtain his medicines from the neighborhood pharmacy, simply and without any issues.

Day by day GESY is improving, upgrading and moving forward to meet the latest needs that are constantly being generated. Three years is very little time to evaluate a project of this size. Let us not forget that in many other countries, with proven health systems, the process of development and upgrading is continuous and endless.

But the system is not perfect. Weaknesses exist and deficits are identified while abuses continue. At the same time, however, we must note that the GESY has the technical mechanisms and the legislated tools to remove the distortions and reduce the problems. However, I am convinced that any effort for improvements in the GESY can be made through the system itself, without attempting to change its core, which will change its philosophy. I know that the Health Insurance Agency is making a lot of efforts, and it should be intensified. This is a work of unprecedented size, which clashes with established perceptions that belong in the past. The modernization and upgrading of autonomous public hospitals is also a major challenge, which coincided chronologically with the pandemic. We must not forget that the prioritization of the management of the health crisis deprived the OKYPY of financial and human resources. I am sure that both OAY and OKYPY, as well as the associations of private hospitals, laboratories, the medical world, the community of pharmacists, and other partners, are working in the right direction with the sole aim of continuously upgrading GESY for the benefit of citizens.

From the first day, GESY had its opponents, who unfortunately continue to undermine it. Once again, I would like to state that the course of events would be very different if it were not for the strong political will of the President of the Republic Nikos Anastasiadis with regard to the implementation of GESY. Once again, I would like to commend the support of the majority of parliamentary parties and political forces, as well as social partners. I owe a special mention to the Association of Organized Patients, who deterred actions that would have undermined this great social conquest. I thank them all and congratulate them. GESY is a great project that we leave to our children, that is why we must support it.

[This op-ed was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  health

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