The health system in Cyprus
Human Beings have the right to live, work and create in a Healthy Environment.
Protection of Health and easy access to Health Care System are Basic Human Rights which have to be met in every Democratic Country without taking into account Income or Economic Capacity of the individual.
Considering Health in Cyprus, we could state that it has an adequate standard, without disgregarding certain problems.
There is a good balance between the State and Private Health Systems which gives a Health Image easily comparable to that of developed countries. The Doctor/Patient ratio is 1 to 433 and the Hospital Bed/Inpatient ratio is 1 to 190.
Since 1960, the year of Cyprus's independence, emphasis was given to Prevention, a necessary aspect of Health Care. Cyprus is today admired for its Prevention Programs and has an international reputation for them. Prevention Program managed to practically eliminate diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis and Echinococcus, a disease that gave us second place in the word for incidence before the 1950's.
This is why we see with great anger the recent rise of Echinococcus and other Infectuosus Diseases which are a result of the occupation and the partition of Cyprus, as they come from occupied area where inadequate sanitary and health conditions exists and where the Cyprus Governament can not exercise any control.
Dogs and Cuttle that come through the occupied territories and the smuggling of meat and meat products - which is tolerated by the British Military Bases - create a Health problem not easy to ignore.
Better results we had in the prevention of Thalassaemia, an inherited blodd diseases, which due to the small population of the island could rise into a major National Health Problem if left without control.
Since 1989 a special program for the prevention of Mental Retardation is under way, as a result of private initiative, which by screening all newborns for Hypothyroidism and Phenylketonuria and screening all pregnant women by the so called Triple Test detects those at high risk for Chromosomal abnormalities such as the Down Syndrome and Neural Tube Defects.
During the last year a Cancer Prevention Program was launched with the use of a Moving Cancer Diagnosis Unit which administers the Pap-Test and Mammography to every woman in Cyprus, free of charge.
Due to the State and Private Sector efforts of the last two decades we now have a high standard of health care a relatively low cost.
The total Governament expenditure on Health is now a 4 to 4.5% of the Gross National Income in comparison to a 7% of highly developed countries.
Inspite the horrible result of the Turkish Invasion and Occupation which left us with a loss of hundreds of Hospital beds, Private and State Medical Centers and Labs, Cyprus managed to improve Health Care Systems both in Manpower, Premises and Technology. Scans such as the MRI, the CT, the Ultrasound, Extra-corporal Fertilization modalities, Lithotripsia, Mammography, Osteoporosis early detection Tests and almost any other High-Tech Diagnostic Tool is available to the public.
Transplants are also performed here, with special centers for kidney and corneal transplantations as well as Open Heart Surgery.
The National Social Security System which covers most of the population - indicatively, women are allowed a paid 16-week birth leave and a substantial birth allowance.
The various Medical Funds supported by Semi Government and Private Organizations and operated under special agreements with the Private Sector Health Care System. Medical Funds allow the citizien to visit the doctors or clinic of his choise at a relatively low cost.
The Labour Union Medical Funds which operate their own Popular Medical Centers since 1950, inspite the negative view of the Colonial Regime of the time which considered the Cyprus people immature to operate such a system alone. The Centers also provide Medicine in very low prices compared to the ones of the free market. There are also free medical treatments in Government Hospitals for people with special problems such as Poverty, Disability ecc.
"Desferal", an expensive medicine for the treatment of Thalassaemia is provided free to all sufferers.
Till 1993 there was an increase in the Public Health Programs provided by the State, but since the last elections, when a totally Right Wing Conservative Government took over, we have a decline in Free Health Services. Free Hospital Care is now eliminated and the cost of Private Medicine is relatively high and rather unaffordable to the average citizen.
A new Health Care System seems to be absolutely necessary if we want to speak of State Health Care in the next few years. Our Government is reluctant to employ such a new system as higher Life Expectancy, low Infant Mortality, high Morbidity and the introduction of expansive High-Teach medical tools, along with the use - and abuse - of medicines account for an enormous rise in Health Care Costs. Also there is an icrease in Chronic and Uncurable diseases such as Hepatitis, Cancer, Mental Disorders, Arthritis and AIDS which also contribute to the higher Health Care costs.
Number One cause of death in Cyprus is Heart Disease. The rapid and big change in eating habits, the extreme intake of animal fat, the consumption of vast amounts of "Fast Food" and most of all smoking - Cyprus is among the 5 highest smoking-rate countries - and stressful lifestyle, result in the increase of Heart disease.
A recent study conducted in the Nicosia Region among Elementary School Children revealed that a significant percentage have high blood pressure and increased levels of cholesterol - a tribute to our consuming life style.
The Neurology and Genetics Institute of Cyprus gave a statement to the Press saying that Neuro-Muscular diseases appear in a much higher incidence than in other countries - 50 to 100,000 in Cyprus compared to 5 in 100,000 elsewhere.
Finally the big problem of Cancer increase which show 2000 new cancer cases every year. About 10,000 cancer patients are now treated in Government Hospitals and a significant number in the Private ones.
Let us now link Health to the Violation of Basic Human Rights.
Cyprus is an island which gained independence from Colonial Rule in 1960, but still as two major British Military Bases operating as intermediary transport stations for guns and other military material. We are fairly certain that nuclear weapons are also kept there.
We often witness great damages in the Flora and the Fauna because of the British Military Exercises and devastating Fires occurs during the summer months mostly because of negligence.
Yet, the greatest violation to our environment occured 21 years back during the Turkish Invasion, by the forcible occupation of 40% of our cultivating land and the burning of about 35% of our total Forrest area. In most of these areas erosion will worsen the situation and it will take decades before we repair the damage - if we ever do in the occupied areas.
Due to the settlement of the 200,000 displaced people in the remaining 60% of the island a huge population density problem appeared.
Our Cities expanded irrationally without proper City-Plan, with inadequate infra structure, inadequate road systems and hundreds of cars polluting the atmosphere. The Led level in the air is often on the higher borderline.
The uncontrollable increase of Tourism, Industrial Units, Agriculture and Animal Farm on the one hand and the boom increase of land price on the other, resulted in the unwillingness of people to give land to the Government for the development of Sewerage Plans and Dumping Sites. This of course results in its turn to the pollution of both our land and water.
You can now-a-days find a Petrol Rafinery Unit and Electrification Station in residential areas. The cost of moving these units is so high that the private sector is unwilling to bear and the Government unable to contibute to.
We have a minimal Law System regarding the Protection of the Environment and Consumer Rights and even this is violated in order to satisfy different economic interests. A new Law is pending before the House of Parliament but in the meantime, Cancer is given to us through food and drinks and every now and then a new word is added to our vocabulary such as Aflatoxin ecc.
But we feel we should also stress that the Cypriot Citizien is not as alert as he should be on Environment and Health issues, despite the existence of many Environmental Organization and other highly interested groups.
The mass of Cyprus people is unfortunately more occupied in acquiring material possession and in consuming, rather than in the consequences of irrational use of Nature, Resources and Technology.
This is in general terms the situation in Cyprus. We hope that some thing will change for the better. If they do not, Nature will come back on the us, on the both the concerned and the indifferent.
We have the hope that the new Law when passed will allow effective control on consumer goods, foodstuffs, fertilizers and industrial raw materials. It will also allow the penalizing of those who violate the Basic Human Right of Health.