Health authorities need to be more sensitive to the needs of patients – MAM - Malta Independent - 20/1/2007

Health authorities need to be more sensitive to the needs of patients – MAM

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The Medical Association of Malta yesterday called for health authorities to become more sensitive to the needs of the patients.

In a statement, MAM referred to comments made by Health Minister Louis Deguara in the local media last Thursday. In his comments, Dr Deguara said he agreed that there is a significant brain drain to the UK and other countries and, as a result, a considerable number of medical specialists have to be employed from Eastern Europe. Dr Deguara also said there was the need to improve career progression for Maltese doctors.

However, MAM pointed out that doctors are greatly overloaded and that it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to cope with the increasing demand for health services.

There are long queues where people have to wait for hours, especially at the Emergency Department and the health centres.

MAM also said that there are long waiting lists for outpatients’ appointments and it might take up to five years for a hip replacement. However, it is up to the public to decide if this is an adequate service, said MAM.

The long waiting times and waiting lists are an inevitable consequence of the shortage of doctors and inadequate planning over the years, it added.

Furthermore, many doctors are working 60 to 70 hours a week, while the authorities insist that health centre doctors see one patient every four minutes.

However, MAM said, the demand for services is increasing and the number of experienced and specialised doctors is decreasing.

MAM agreed with Minister Deguara’s statement that the UK loses up to a fifth of its doctors to the USA but pointed out that Malta is losing more than half of its doctors and that even though faced with a far smaller problem, the UK has taken steps to tackle it. In fact, MAM strongly advised the local health authorities to study the policies currently implemented in the UK to retain and motivate its doctors in the National Health Service (NHS).

Furthermore, MAM added, the comment made by Dr Deguara that the “nice environment” of the new hospital will attract new doctors is detached from reality. However, through his comment, Dr Deguara unwittingly acknowledged the serious shortage of doctors as there is no need to attract more doctors if there is no problem, said MAM.

MAM has made many proposals based on the UK system, and solutions which have worked in the UK.

However if the health authorities will continue to bury their heads in the sand, and take a “business as usual” attitude, MAM will have no option but to take the necessary action in the interest of its members and the public.

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