Medical treatment and National Health Plan
The most serious problem of each citizen today and especially every worker is that of medical coverage. Much has been said and many promises have been made on this issue. Since the independence of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960, all governments acknowledged that the current health services system has many weaknesses and that it is necessary to apply radical measures to achieve a significant upgrading of the quality of provided services. Although the diagnosis is made, studies are carried out, and promises are given, we are not proceeding to the practical implementation of fundamental corrective measures. In reality, medical coverage of the people depends on an outdated system and basically on what each citizen can afford.
On our part, we continuously stressed that the current situation is unacceptable. It is left out of control and we fear we will reach unwanted situations.
There is no doubt that a solution to this serious problem is the implementation of a National Health Plan (NHP), in which all the people will participate. With a NHP we will be able, as a society, to upgrade the quality of the services offered, to control the continually increasing cost, and most importantly to make medical services accessible to all, because they will be provided free of charge when needed.
National Health Plan (NHP)
Over the past few years, SEK has been giving priority to the promotion of a NHP. Over the past fifteen years, many debates were held on this issue. The government on many occasions summoned well-known specialists from abroad. Studies and analysis were carried out, and drafts were made. New specialists evaluated the studies of the previous ones. Finally, a team of experts, comprising Cypriot and foreign scientists, was set up. This team put forward a set of specific principles, which made up a comprehensive plan.
The Minister of Health organised seminars, with the participation of MPs, political party representatives, as well as delegates from trade unions and employers' unions, and other scientific organisations. A series of separate meetings took place at the Ministry of Health with the interested parties. Summarising what took place over the years for a NHP, we can say that with the help of the experts a health plan has been drafted, which to be applied needs to promotion of certain procedures, which concern the Ministry of Health and the government. Loose ends gather around the issue of funding the plan. It is obvious that the Ministry is trying to apply the plan without any further burden to the fixed fund of the Republic. This is ruled out because the state has many responsibilities, which are either provided now or not yet, but will be when the plan is implemented. These responsibilities increase the cost, which the state will have to cover. Also, the labour movement demands that the state contributes to the health of all citizens, not only the poor. It is obvious that the promotion of the NHP stumbles on the economic factor.
The SEK Health Plan
SEK has for many years a well-known policy on the issue of workers' health. The aim was and remains the NHP. However, knowing that such a plan cannot be implemented overnight, and that there are many obstacles to be overcome, SEK decided to set up an internal fund, which helps its members to visit doctors and receive medicines. This plan is funded solely by contributions of SEK members and equal contributions from their employers. SEK also contributed to create some funds, which operate on a factory level.
These funds operate on a regional basis. Each district has its own board and all operate according to regulations. It must be stressed that these funds do not provide full medical coverage, but only contribute towards the costs. The benefits of the members are set out according to regulations. These funds are very useful to the workers and operate on the basis of social solidarity. One of the main aims of the committees is to operate the funds in a rational manner, so that they are never in a position not to be able to help a member in need.
The funds have been operating for a long period of time and experience has indicated that they are very useful for the members.
It must also be noted that to help members in the best possible manner, the funds have created participial pharmacies, which contribute towards saving money. Each town, i.e. Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos and Paralimni, have such pharmacies. Nicosia also has a fully equipped laboratory for tests.
More information about the medical fund, its regulations and a list of doctors in each district, can be found in a special leaflet given free by SEK officers and the Labour Centres in each district.