MAM - doctors losing patience
Press release 15th January 2007
Doctors losing patience – Health authorities need to be more sensitive to the needs of patients.
The Medical Association of Malta refers to comments made by the Honourable Minister of Health Dr L Deguara on PBS last Thursday. Dr Deguara agrees with MAM that there is a significant brain drain to the UK and other countries. The Minister also confirmed that a considerable number of medical specialists have had to be employed from Eastern Europe. He also acknowledged the urgent need to improve career progression for Maltese doctors.
However MAM would like to remind the general public, that at present doctors are greatly overloaded and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to cope with the increasing demand for health services.
MAM appeals to the authorities for more sensitivity to the needs of the patients. There are long queues for any medical service particularly at Accident and Emergency Department and at the health centres, where patients may have to wait for hours. Waiting lists for outpatients appointments, and for any surgical procedure have become unacceptably long; for example 5 years for a hip replacement. The public must judge whether this is an adequate service as claimed by the Minister. These long waiting times and waiting lists are an inevitable consequence of the shortage of doctors and inadequate planning over the years
Furthermore many doctors are working 60-70 hours per week, while the authorities insist with health centre doctors see one patient every 4 minutes. As time goes by the demand for services is increasing and the number of experienced and specialized doctors is decreasing. A newly graduated doctor cannot do the work of a doctor with years of experience.
MAM agrees with Dr. Deguara’s statement that the UK loses up to a fifth of its doctors to the USA but Malta is losing more than half of its doctors. Even though faced with a far smaller problem, the UK has taken steps to tackle it. MAM strongly advises the local health authorities to study the policies being implemented in the UK to retain and motivate its doctors in the NHS. Working conditions and indeed salaries have been improved even though they were already far superior to those in Malta. Only in Malta does the government seem content to ignore the problem and let our health system collapse.
The comment made by the Minister that the ‘nice environment’ of the new hospital will attract new doctors is most unconvincing and detached from reality. However, by that very comment, he unwittingly acknowledged the serious shortage of doctors. Why would the government want to attract more doctors, if there is no problem as he claims!
MAM has made many proposals based on the UK system, and the solutions which have worked in the UK. It is ready to continue to contribute constructively to improve the Maltese health care system. However if the health authorities continue to bury their head in the sand, and take a “business as usual” attitude, MAM will have no option but to take the necessary actions in the interest of its members and the public.
The Government has invested heavily in a new hospital but to impove the health of the nation it has to invest in human resources. Otherwise experienced doctors will continue to seek greener pastures and the situation will continue to deteriorate for patients seeking medical services.
Dr. Martin Balzan MD FRCP(UK) FEFIM