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Bicommunal health

By George Philis

The health sector is riddled with problems both in the north and south, but this offers a clean slate for a bicommunal task force pondering quietly on the future of health in Cyprus.

Sources close to the peace negotiations have told the Cyprus Weekly that a technical committee on health is working in a “positive climate” as it grapples with a host of issues regarding health care in both communities.

This task force is staying out of politics and keeping a low profile, as its members hail from both communities, with individual achievements in both public and private sectors. Both north and south are facing systemic challenges, including the need for structural and financial reforms.

The ongoing discussion over a big wave of privatisation in the north is causing uncertainly in many people, both patients and medical professionals, who are not convinced that such change could be positive.

The introduction of a National Health Scheme has been going back and forth in the south, with only just this week’s meeting at the Presidential Palace pointing to a way forward.

But a big concern and one of the main goals of this group, which meets under the auspices of the UN as one of the many bicommunal technical committees, is to exchange accurate information between the two sides such as in recent outbreaks of swine flu.

There have been cases where authorities receive information about possible scenarios of an outbreak or an epidemic, and there is an urgent need for health officials on both sides to be able to coordinate their actions.

It is also understood that the task force has regular meetings where problems within each community are discussed between professionals and colleagues, focusing on day-to-day problems and ways to handle issues.

It is not clear what health might look like in the future, either in a post-solution or non-solution scenario. But it is abundantly clear that the two sides are working together to be better prepared for any health contingency and trying to forge a healthy understanding.

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