TEN months after leaving empty a post that is essential to the implementation of a National Health Scheme (NHS), the cabinet yesterday appointed a new chairman to the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO).
Thomas Antoniou, a 43-year-old accountant, is the new HIO chairman, government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou announced after the meeting.
The HIO – the organisation tasked with setting up an NHS – has been headless since March last year when the previous chairman, Vassos Shiarly, left to take up the post of finance minister.
The HIO has been unable to take any executive decisions without a chairman, even though the cabinet told the health ministry in June to proceed with the NHS.
Stefanou said yesterday that implementing an NHS was an “imperative need”.
But it was only last week that the government named a potential chairman after a silence of months, said member of the House health committee and EDEK deputy, Roula Mavronicola yesterday questioned the move after months of inactivity on the issue from the government. “It’s been so long since Shiarly left. The government is changing in a month. The question is why now?” she said.
Presidential elections will take place in February and the incumbent president will not be running. Cyprus – the only EU member state without a national health scheme – set up the HIO in 2001, more than 11 years ago.
The public system is now unable to cope with the numbers of people opting to use state hospitals for financial reasons, and Cyprus’ international lenders have also been putting pressure on to finally put an NHS in place, so that health expenditure can be better controlled.
Cyprus has agreed to delay awarding the tender for the necessary IT-infrastructure to manage the system, so that an actuarial study on the NHS can be updated this year.
Source: Pantelides.P., Cyprus Mail (January 10, 2013)