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PM stresses importance of community healthcare
by MATTHEW XUEREB
It is useless having a state-of-the-art hospital, the best medicines and the most technologically-advanced medical equipment, if not enough importance is given to the human resources who have to provide the health service, at present classified as the fifth best in the world, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said yesterday.
Dr Gonzi was participating in a consultation meeting as part of the process to draw up the 2008 pre-budget document. He said that more emphasis should be placed on community healthcare, taking a cue from a comment from one of the people present who suggested that efforts should be made to take the hospital to the people, rather than wait for the people to turn up at hospital.
Dr Gonzi said that in a few months, the country will have a brand new state-of-the-art hospital and after that, the government will start looking into improving healthcare in the community.
Several people who spoke mentioned the importance of improving this service, because it will lessen the burden on the new hospital.
Dr Gonzi said that while the government acknowledged the brain-drain problem, it was also worried that a good number of students, who would have cost the government Lm35,000 each from when they enter university to when they receive their degree, are flying out of the country.
Describing it as a “nightmare”, Dr Gonzi said that the government has been discussing this problem for a long time and admitted “it’s not easy to find a solution to this problem.”
A number of people spoke on a wide array of subjects at yesterday’s discussion meeting. Maria Sant Fournier from the Malta Chamber of Pharma-cists spoke about the importance of decentralising the provision of medicines. On this subject, Dr Gonzi said that while some time ago he was rather tired of the “pharmacy of your choice” idea, he now believes it would improve the service that is proving difficult for some people.
Mario Spiteri, from the Health Promotion Department, insisted on the importance of improved lifestyles as a way of putting into practice the widely-used saying that prevention is better than cure. He said a percentage of the tax collected from tobacco products, for example, could be used for campaigns urging people to stop smoking.
Dr Gonzi said that, as no one was mentioning it, he was prepared to mention the waiting list problem himself. He admitted that the healthcare service does have this problem and said the government is constantly looking at ways of reducing waiting lists as much as possible.
One woman suggested that children and young people with eating disorders should not be placed with older people with other problems at Mount Carmel Hospital, because this was having other drastic effects on these people. She also pointed out that schoolchildren’s spines are being damaged by the heavy schoolbags they have to carry and with sitting down in a classroom for a good part of the day.
Maria Delicata from the Daniel Delicata Memorial Association complained about the vandalism in children’s wards at the hospital. She said a number of sofas and other equipment that had been introduced to tone down the effect of hospital on children are often vandalised. She also spoke about the importance of providing professional support for the patients and also their relatives who will also be going through a difficult time.
Dr Gonzi thanked non-governmental organisations for their very important contribution, saying their efforts do not go unnoticed.