At 46.5 percent, public funding in Cyprus’ healthcare sector is dramatically lower than other EU countries, where it is a top priority and the dominant spending category, according to the latest Eurostat survey. Meanwhile, the new national healthcare insurance reforms have been pending in the House of Representatives since October 20th. These difficult circumstances pose a considerable health risk to patients who urgently need care, organised treatment and follow-up plans.
According to Eurostat, public spending on healthcare in other European countries ranges from 54 percent in Bulgaria to over 80 percent in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
What does this mean in real terms? In this writer’s experience, it means that every day, patients have long waiting times to see doctors, and in particular, the cancer treatment and diagnosis sector is full of logjams, overwhelmed and under-resourced. The Bank of Cyprus Oncological Centre under normal circumstances is an excellent public sector initiative but cannot provide much-needed surgeries for cancer patients. It can only provide chemotherapy and radiation treatments, meaning that there is a big hole in its treatment capabilities. Cancer patients who need surgery are sent to private or public sector surgeons, but those who need urgent surgeries then have to wait for weeks while the necessary tests and consultations are carried out.
For some patients, by the time they get their surgeries, it’s too late and the cancer has progressed beyond the point of no return.
An oncology hospital is urgently needed for the island’s cancer treatment capacity to improve. Surgeries for cancer need specialised surgeons who have training in oncology, and the average patient doesn’t have the expertise to understand the difference and may end up in the wrong hands.
The cancer healthcare associations PASYKAF and the Anti-cancer Association are great resources for cancer patients in-between treatments. They have teams of experienced doctors and nurses who can visit patients in their homes and provide the warm care they need in the midst of the worst disease that anyone has to live with – cancer. One can only imagine the miracles they could perform if they had real capacity that goes beyond the limited contributions and donations they receive as NGOs.
All these resources need capacity boosting and an organised national healthcare plan. After all, it’s one of the core duties of any national administration to manage public health. An efficient healthcare system is also one of the main differences between developed and developing countries.
Most of all, it’s the most compassionate thing to do with the money taxpayers contribute to the nation’s funds.