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17 June, 2024
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Scandal shakes things up in Cypriot health

Local doctor speaks out against patron-client system, wants politicians out of cancer patient drug management


An unprecedented political scandal in public health is unfolding in the Republic of Cyprus this week after a local doctor at the German Oncology Center went public with allegations of corruption where cancer patients had to know someone to get prompt treatment.

Health officials were said to be fast tracking special software to distribute drugs to cancer patients, following shocking allegations of vote trading and deep state politics in a system overseen by House representatives off the record.

Local media reported on information that private citizens were calling on their House representatives to pull in favors with a special drugs committee, citing the absence of an electronic filing system that has been excluded so far from the newly-launched GESY state healthcare network.

The director of the Medical Council at GOC in Limassol, Nikolaos Zamboglou, made the initial allegations saying there were double standards created by a patron-client system in place.

'Instead of setting up institutional procedures in Cyprus... there is this hey look, this person is with me, take good care, bring them in faster or give them something'

“People try to solve their problems on their own through relations they may have with someone they know or even a politician,” Zamboglou said.

Messages from concerned citizens sent to a state radio news program Wednesday morning called out House representatives for spending time on personal requests instead of examining serious issues.

House health committee chair Efthimios Diplaros, who was a guest on the program, refuted the allegations and said there was no pending issue on the agenda.

Diplaros, whose cancer survivor wife made headlines earlier this year, called for honest dialogue with all stakeholders to find the silver lining on the issue.

“I am thinking about taking an initiative to bring the rhetoric down,” the ruling party DISY MP said.

Zamboglou said he believed the health ministry has come around and was preparing software to take politics out of the equation, noting there were delays in the past.

“It seems that the ministry has realized [the problem] and they promised that by August 1 at the latest there will be software created as well as conditions so that we can get the drugs directly from Nicosia and give them to patients without delay,” the GOC director said.

The doctor said his comments were “not official complaints but the reality that makes it difficult to carry out medical treatments,” adding that a patron-client system was creating two separate classes, those patients who know someone and those who do not.

Problem widespread across other domains of Cypriot life

Zamboglou also went on to say that the problem was not only in public health but it was widespread across other domains of Cypriot life.

“Instead of setting up institutional procedures in Cyprus we try -and I say this about everyone, all political parties, I’m not trying to single out anyone- there is this ‘hey look, this person is with me, take good care, bring them in faster or give them something,” Zamboglou decried.

The doctor also said cancer patients who did not know anybody within the system would typically wait to get the drugs with some delay, a month or month and a half, whereas someone who knows somebody can get the medicine more quickly.

Zamboglou gave an example saying there was a case when a patient got the drug on the same day.

“You can imagine our situation here, patients are waiting and suddenly one of them gets the drug while the others are still waiting,” he said.

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