As of the 1 June 2019, a National Health System (GESY), is in effect for the first time in Cyprus, introducing major differences in the provision of health care services. The new system introduces the concept of the personal GP in the community as a focal point for referrals to all specialised doctors. A network of private practitioners, pharmacies and diagnostic centres have been set-up in order for health services to be provided, and in June 2020, a number of private hospitals are also expected to join the new health system for in-hospital treatment. For the most part of the population (Cypriots and EU citizens) in Cyprus, health services are now provided almost exclusively under the new health system.
Beneficiaries of international protection are included in the new health system. The transition to the new health system was, however, not smooth due to various coordination challenges between the appointed relevant governmental departments, a lack of translated material in the language of beneficiaries and confusion among medical and hospital staff in regard to refugees’ rights to health care. The most prominent obstacle still present is the fact that persons which received international protection and whose residence permit is under issuance are not able to access GESY services. This creates serious obstacles as the waiting time for the issuance / renewal of a residence permit is long. An alternative measure for those without a valid residence permit for more than nine months was proposed, specifically to be treated by the state institutions (as in the case of asylum seekers), but this is far from adequate to address international protection holders’ right to efficient health services.
Beneficiaries of international protection have access to the schemes of the Department for Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, operating under the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance. These schemes include various types of allowances and access to care and technical means. Since May 2018, following a decision of the Council of Ministers, international protection holders are granted access to the allowance scheme provided to HIV positive persons.