The Cyprus health minister Stavros Malas has travelled to Libya to investigate attracting patients from Libya to Cyprus for medical treatment, “The Libyan government asked us over to discuss the policy of sending public patients to Cyprus as they do mostly in Jordan, but also to a certain extent in Greece and Italy. It could prove to be an economic boost for Cyprus, as well as providing a service to Libya.”
But the Cyprus government has ruled out using public hospitals as Stavros Malas explains, “Public hospitals are already stretched to the limit. Public hospitals cannot respond to this task because of their workload. The Libyan patients will be paying for the service in private hospitals for pediatric surgery, heart disease, brain cancer and oncology.
The ministry may also consider sending Cypriot healthcare experts to help run Libyan hospitals. There is a snag or two; the Cyprus government of Dimitris Christofias was one of the few open supporters of the deposed dictator Gaddafi. The minister of health is pushing a private sector initiative when the public sector is in crisis.
Private Cyprus hospitals are buckling under the pressures of the financial crisis, maintaining minimum nursing staff or even being forced to close, according to Marcos Agathangelou of the Pancyprian Association of Private Hospitals, “The last two to three years have been bad and especially during 2011, which was the worst year that private hospitals have seen. The situation is unprecedented and insurmountable. 60 out of 130 of the smaller private hospitals have been forced to close over the last few years. One of the main causes is that a lot of these hospitals rely on medical tourism and as a result the services they provide are seasonal. There are private hospitals in Paphos and Ayia Napa where for six months they maintain the same level of nursing staff even though there is a 90 % drop in the number of patients. An increased number of Cypriots are now using state hospitals too, resulting in many private hospitals losing a significant number of Cypriot patients. There are hospitals that have gone ahead and fired some of their nursing staff and are maintaining a minimum number in accordance with the law, just so there are enough nurses to ensure the safety of patients.”
The Cyprus delegation to Libya wants to reactivate agreements they had with the Gaddafi regime. When in Libya, Stavros Malas gave more information on the talks, “We want to explore ways of offering our medical services not just to Libyan patients that were injured during the war, although that is also a possibility, but we are here to offer specialist services to adults and children in orthopedics, eye specialists, spine surgery and MRI diagnostics. We want to organize a tight well-regulated service in Cyprus for Libyan people. We have enormous capacity in the private sector under the coordination of the government. The private sector has agreed to offer these services not on comparative bases but all offering the same services at the same prices.”
There is one area that Cyprus hospitals may want to clarify. The Jordanian government offered a similar deal on behalf of private hospitals, rather than allowing direct negotiations. But Jordan’s private hospitals are struggling to get paid the money owed by the Libyans and the Jordanian government does not guarantee any bad debts. Perhaps the Cyprus hospitals should insist on a deal that is negotiated for them by the government, with bills paid by the Libyan government, that the Cyprus government guarantees to pay up if the Libyans default or delay on payment.