In this article, I want to walk you through the practical aspects of healthcare in Cyprus, from one who knows what it involves, from finding a GP and seeing specialists to the costs to expect.
Although British myself, I am not strictly an expat since I am married to a Cypriot so the rules are different. But I do have British expat friends, who have told me about their own practical experiences of healthcare. Read on to find out more.
Finding and booking a doctor/dentist’s appointment
Well, the simple answer to this is that you ask around. You will find that finding services including medical (and dentist) services happens from recommendations. So, all my British friends found their doctor or dentist from recommendations by other British people living in their local town or village communities. It goes something like this, “Hey Mary – I’ve got a fever! Who’s your doctor?” Mary replies: “Oh Helen – sorry to hear that – it’s Dr. Yiannis, here’s his number”. Helen will then call the number and make an appointment.
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Once you arrive at your appointment, you fill out a form (yes, still not quite paperless, although some newer healthcare practices can do this via computer) that requires your personal contact details, and private health insurance details if you have it.
However, there is one thing to watch out for. Cypriots in all walks of life are not very good at time-keeping. So your appointment may be at 10am but you may not see your doctor until a lot later.
Cypriot healthcare professionals are very well trained (most in the U.K. and America) and qualified.
Be prepared for other Cypriots ahead of you arriving late for their appointments – unfortunately they tend to jump the queue. Annoying, I know, but that’s the culture. I have to say though, your wait will be rewarded. Cypriot healthcare professionals are very well trained (most in the UK and America) and qualified. It’s just the administration side of it that needs improvement.
Hospital and private specialists
As a general rule, you only see a hospital (state) specialist when you are admitted to hospital or if you are an outpatient there. But, many British people here are “referred” by their local doctor. It means that you have to go to the hospital and queue at the reception desk (this involves a ticket queue system) and make an appointment with the specialist you need.
I know that there is a shortage of hospital specialists for some medical conditions, but this has improved a lot, since many hospital specialists now come over from Greece to Cyprus because of the high unemployment levels there. Private specialists are recommended by both state and private doctors/dentists.
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I have noticed that state and private doctor and dentist healthcare professionals actively encourage patients to attend other specialist clinics to share the workload among their own professional communities. Both hospital and private specialists are experts in their disciplines, but I would say that private ones have the edge because they tend to have a more welcoming, reassuring clinic environment than the hospital ones. Personally, I think that somehow this makes a big difference to the quality of the treatment you receive.
Cyprus has had a system in place for cancer patients for many years, and there are many cancer charities and care homes. From a preventative side though, there have been slower developments. But you can find preventative cancer treatment centres, particularly for breast cancer and other types, and you will pay a fee of about €30 for the screening treatment.
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There are also specialist X-ray clinics that check for conditions like osteoporosis and for dental care. These also charge a fee, and these range from about €50 to €100, depending on the condition you have (e.g., for a dental X-ray you will pay about €50, but for an X-ray for osteoporosis you will pay about €100).
You will find all of these centres in the main towns. At the moment these are all privately run. For other conditions, like stroke and diabetes, these are prevented by doctors or dietitians giving advice to overweight people about diet more than from specialised preventive centres. Accessing these centres though is by individual visit. They are not recommended by healthcare professionals. It is done more by friends’ recommendations. The quality at these centres is high, but this is an area that needs more government attention and financial input.
To end, I should mention that the Cyprus government has implemented the first phase of a new healthcare scheme this year, called GESY. The second and final phase is due to be introduced next summer. The aim seems to be to reduce the current cost of medicines rather than the cost of healthcare services, but we will have to see what the second phase of the scheme involves.
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