MAM response to Comments in Malta Today - 27/4/2006

link to Malta Today

Doctors and “social cases”

I refer to comments made by the Hon. Minister Dr Louis Deguara with regards to the medical profession (‘Mind the Drip!, 16 April, 2006).
The MAM is pleased that the minister is giving importance to hospital overcrowding and the social cases problem. However it is unfair to blame doctors and consultants for these problems.
The hospital administration has had to cancel a large number of operations during the winter months for lack of bed space due to the presence of “social cases”. This is a purely administrative matter having nothing to do with the clinical beside duties of surgeons who according to the health division’s annual report continue to perform around 30,000 operations per year despite the pressure on beds.
Medical consultants see their patients at least three or four times a week, and plan their patients’ management very actively with the result that the mean duration of stay is very short. The minister appears to be receiving wrong information with regard to the day-to-day running of the hospital where the approach is now multi-disciplinary.
Official data also show that the average length of stay for acute cases at St Luke’s Hospital compares very favourably with that overseas.
This clearly indicates that the overcrowding problem is not due to consultants not discharging patients but rather due to the problem of social cases. Indeed up to a half of a medical ward’s normal bed complement may be taken up by social cases. The authorities have still not adequately tackled this problem.
MAM would like to congratulate the minister on the news that there is now a long-term plan for acute and chronic health services. This is most welcome and augurs well for the future
MAM remains committed to constructive dialogue and co-operation to consolidate all the positive aspects of the health service, and indeed improve on all those areas which merit attention.

Dr Martin Balzan
General Secretary
Medical Association of Malta

Editorial note: For the sake of clarification, the minister did not blame doctors and consultants for the waiting lists. He said it was an anomaly that waiting lists were in the hands of consultants. Asked specifically by the journalist about consultants who leave their patients waiting for months at St Luke’s only to operate them privately in a much shorter time he said that whoever did this was “highly irresponsible” and that such practice was “unacceptable”.

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