Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have started getting behind Health Minister George Pamborides’ universal healthcare bill in a bid to get it passed in the House of Representatives. The current bill is based on recommendations by the European Commission and consultants, but has been sitting on the shelf since October 2016.
The Association of Patients and Friends is holding a protest outside the House at 10am on June 16th and has called on all its members to support the bill. The universal health care insurance scheme would improve the current coverage, which is only for pensioners.
The bill faces opposition from private insurance companies and medical centres who see it as a threat to their income. But the problems are well known. Medical insurance is expensive and out of reach for many people, the unemployed, for example. There is a lack of investment in the public medical facilities, meaning that the number of patients outstrips the available equipment and human resources. If private companies offer medical insurance it is an exception to the rule, most of them don’t have the resources to do so.
The first duty of the state is to ensure public health and safety. The economy would improve with a healthier population, and shared responsibility would bring forward better public health initiatives. That’s all provided the state administers the system effectively.
Bottom line, it presents the public and the state with an ethical question: what kind of state are we? The kind that lets patients and their families suffer financial burdens beyond their capabilities? The kind that lets doctors and nurses in the public sector suffer nervous breakdowns because they can’t take the immense pressures put on their heads? The kind that values luxury cars as a sign of success, or a healthy population as a sign of success? Nothing against luxury cars, but when it comes to a choice between investing in the public health sector and buying the latest BMW as a perk for civil servants, then the choice is between the public interest and the ego interest. Anyone involved in public representation who drives around in a luxury car bought by the state should wonder whether the 50,000 Euros for the car could have saved someone’s life in the General Hospital.
Until the universal healthcare scheme (GESY) is passed, our character as a state will not truly reflect who we really are. Cypriots care deeply about their families’ health, the state should be a reflection of what we care about most as a nation.