I know that it’s difficult to think about the possibility of becoming ill in Cyprus – the weather is so good and the food is so nutritious, so why worry? But realistically, anything can happen – yes, even here! So I’m going to tell you about the basics of the healthcare system in Cyprus for the British and other Europeans who come to live here.

Government healthcare expenditure

To be honest, statistically, it looks as if the Cyprus government does not spend enough on healthcare. The 2015 figures record that it spent 6.77% on this area. If you have a look at the 2015 comparison graph with other European countries, you will see that Cyprus’s expenditure is rather low.

To be fair, we have to remember two things. First, Cyprus suffered what we on the ground call the ‘financial crisis’ in 2013, where the banks in Cyprus crashed, owing billions of money. People lost their money deposits with these banks, including the government. So, it meant that the government was forced by the EU to curb spending, and healthcare spending was severely curtailed. Healthcare fees for Europeans were hiked up. Second, the government here is jittery about Brexit. It’s reluctant to review its spending and its imposed fees until it becomes more aware of Brexit’s effects. Facts of life.

 

Healthcare in Cyprus is top-notch, especially in the private system.

Healthcare in Cyprus is top-notch, especially in the private system.

 

Choices of healthcare

You can choose to go public (state-run) or private, similar to the USA. Public healthcare consists of visiting GPs and/or specialists at the state hospitals. These are centrally located in the four main cities – Limassol, Paphos, Larnaca, and Nicosia. To be honest, I would say that the quality of these services in the public hospitals is good, but there is a shortage of hospital GPs/specialists because these prefer to work in the private sector to obtain a higher income!

Public healthcare in Cyprus

In order to visit a GP/specialist in public healthcare here, the British, like all Europeans, will need to apply for a medical card. The criteria for obtaining this card is rather complicated, but can be found on the Ministry of Health website. From talking to my British friends, it basically comes down to how much income you earn, or if you are a retiree, how much money you can bring into the country.

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So what does the medical card do? Well, it gives you a reduction in the healthcare fees. For example, with a medical card the fee for visiting a GP in the hospital is €3.00, compared with 15.00 euros without a card, and for visiting a specialist it’s €6.00 with a card, and €30 without. You would also pay an additional €50 per medicine prescribed, and €50 per lab test prescribed, up to a value of €10 for either medicine or lab test prescription.

The Accident and Emergency Departments are accessible to everyone, with or without a card. However, there is a standard charge of €10, regardless of what kind of treatment is received. All payments are expected to be paid at the time of your visit for whatever reason. However, Cyprus is always flexible in my experience, and so if you do not have the money available at the time, arrangements will be made for you to make a later payment. Generally, there is little or no waiting time to see a doctor or specialist in the hospital, nor in the event of an emergency, but from my experience, casualty visits can mean you wait a lengthy amount of time.

Private healthcare in Cyprus

Private healthcare in Cyprus comprises clinics and services that are run completely independently of the government, and are paid for by patients through medical insurance that is opened in Cyprus or by using international medical insurance, which is more common. Most of the British people that I know use this type of healthcare. It means that you would need to have a medical insurance system in place as soon as possible.

I gave birth to my children using private healthcare, and I have to say, the standard of care was excellent. The clinics generally are like mini hotels! Food is excellent too, and freshly cooked.

The surgeons and nursing staff in both the state hospitals and clinics are excellently qualified, particularly in neurosurgery and in conditions like diabetes, which has become extremely common here in Cyprus over the last few years, and in heart conditions and cancers, I think that those surgeons and health care staff in the private sector have the edge over their public sector counterparts.

Obtaining an appointment in the private sector is quick, as is accessing a bed in the clinics. Referrals to specialists are fast, usually at the time of the initial visit, because the doctors “support” each other by referring patients to provide additional income for their colleagues! I must admit the fees are high, running into the thousands, but it is worth it.

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Remember also, that most Cypriot doctors have been trained in the U.K. and have experience of U.K. medical care. It helps the British to feel comfortable under their care! Often Cyprus doctors’ university qualifications involve a specialism, and I have recently noticed that there are now Cypriot specialist diabetic doctors or heart doctors, who are very well versed in all the medical procedures. On a smaller scale, Cyprus has for example, specialist dermatology doctors and gynaecology doctors, whom you can regularly visit, but for a fee.

Fee payment is generally expected but again, Cypriots are flexible, and are likely to accept payment shortly after the treatment.

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