Majority satisfied with health services
82.3% think expenditure on new hospital is justified
Well over half (56.7%) of those interviewed in the latest opinion survey carried out by The Sunday Times are generally satisfied with the health service in Malta, but almost two-thirds (63.7%) indicated that improvement is necessary in the appointment system in hospitals. Other areas of concern were the cost of private medicine, hygiene in hospitals and the need for quicker results.
A huge majority (84.7%) thought the expenditure on a new hospital, even if quite high, has been justified.
Sixty-five per cent of those surveyed also expressed preference for a private health service, even though an overwhelming 94.3% consider private medicine to be expensive.
In the survey (by sociologist Mario Vassallo on behalf of The Sunday Times) carried out by telephone among 300 households in Malta and Gozo between January 30 and February 3, it resulted that 58% do not consider it fair that patients should have recourse to a consultant privately before seeking treatment in a state-run hospital, although 42% do not necessarily consider this unfair.
Incidentally, the vast majority (82%) think that expenditure on private medicine and on private medical insurance should be tax exempt.
Ninety-one per cent of respondents had made use of government health centres; just under half of these (4.4% and 43.2%) are either very satisfied or satisfied with the service these provide. Those who are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied amount to 21.2% and 1.1%, respectively; 30% are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. When a 100-point Satisfaction Index is computed on these figures, the result obtained is a mere 27.96 points, which is quite low.
Regarding the new Mater Dei Hospital, 52.3% are expecting an improvement in the quality of service, and almost as many (49.3%) want to see the end of waiting time. Other expectations are an increase in the number of services and that specialists should be stopped from leaving early from work (both indicated by 27%). Others expect better hygiene and more cleanliness (15.3%) and more discipline among hospital staff (15.3%).
Asked to comment on the survey's findings, Professor Vassallo said: "Once more this study attests to the general belief among the Maltese that Malta has a very high standard of medical care. But the current mix of state-run and private medicine does have its own set of problems, which many Maltese are concerned about.
"The findings clearly show that public medicine is no longer a poor man's choice, despite the personalised care, as guaranteed by private medicine. The latter's cost, however, and the at times insufficiently clear policies of private medical insurance companies, appear to be causes of general concern, which policymakers need to examine in some detail.
"This is particularly important now that the commissioning of the new hospital is approaching. This vast endeavour, supported by the Maltese despite the heavy costs, offers an excellent opportunity for a radical review to ensure that the hopes of the Maltese will be realised," Professor Vassallo concluded.