Cyprus

Army doctors made thousands from Gesy illegally, audit service says

Four army doctors joined Gesy in 2019 and made thousands of euros without securing permission, the audit service said on Thursday.

According to a report published on Thursday, members of the armed forces could not engage in any other profession with or without payment up until July 26, 2019, when the law was changed, allowing the defence minister to grant permission “in exceptional cases in consultation with the (National Guard) commander”.

The amendment allowed army doctors to provide their services when they were off duty, provided it did not affect the execution of their duties as a member of the armed forces.

None of the four doctors had secured permission before the law was amended, signing contracts with Gesy between May 30 and June 28, 2019.

Their first prescriptions were entered in the system immediately after those dates, a fact that confirms they started a private practice immediately, the report said.

“Our service considers unacceptable, the fact that the doctors in question considered both the amendment in the law and securing the approval of the defence minister for granted,” the audit report said.

According to the report, between June, when they joined Gesy, and October, the four doctors made €226,016, €48,508, €102,046, and €34,338 respectively.

Those amounts did not include the €6 co-payments made by patients to specialists, and €25 if they do not have a GP referral.

The audit also found that two of the four were providing their services in private while on sick leave from the army – one with a doctor’s paper, the other without.

After checking the Gesy system, auditors found that one of the doctors had examined 28 patients in one day while the other saw four.

The service said the four also appear to violate their army working hours repeatedly, as the Gesy system showed, without securing permission to be absent.

One of the doctors requested examination by a medical board and received sick leave for 42 days starting on December 23, 2019.

On March 26, 2020, citing the coronavirus, he put himself in isolation after being classified in a vulnerable group.

He asked for sick leave until May 19 when a medical board said he was unable to work in military conditions.

Following that, the ministry decided to discharge him from July 24.

However, the audit service found that while on sick leave, and during his self-isolation, the doctor continued to see patients in private, according to the Gesy system. He continued to do so after he was deemed incapable by the medical board.

In light of its findings, the service suggested that the ministry should investigate the doctors.

The army investigated the doctors and did not find that criminal offences were committed. The investigator found possible disciplinary issues and recommended a separate probe. Investigators eventually cleared the doctors, two of which had since retired.

However, the National Guard commander ordered a criminal investigation whose outcome is still pending.

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