The Malta Independent 4 October 2022, Tuesday
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Watch: Pilot project for delivering medicines at home to start later this month

Gabriel Schembri Sunday, 3 April 2016, 09:00 Last update: about 8 years ago

It’s been two years since a government reshuffle saw backbencher CHRIS FEARNE being promoted to Parliamentary Secretary for Health. In an interview with Gabriel Schembri, Mr Fearne speaks about several new projects his secretariat is to commence in the coming months, including many long-awaited promises contained in the Labour Party’s electoral manifesto.

The government is set to embark on a pilot project later this month to deliver medicines at home for persons with disability, the elderly and those who have mobility problems.

Parliamentary Secretary Chris Fearne explained that the government had signed a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to start delivering medicines at home. This was one of the proposals presented in the Labour Party’s electoral manifesto. 

For now, the pilot project will commence with the localities of Rabat and Paola. He said the government has contacted all those who are eligible to benefit from this scheme to apply. Some 100 people from Paola have already applied. The number of applicants in Rabat was less.

The first deliveries are planned to start later this month. Later this summer, the government will analyse the pilot project and unless something does not work, the distribution will be expanded to all the localities of Malta and Gozo.

 

Privatisation of the hospital in Gozo

Asked whether the government had signed any agreements regarding the privatisation of the hospital in Gozo during the Easter holidays, Mr Fearne confirmed that they did sign an agreement with Malta Industrial Parks to give them the land where the projects are going to be carried out.

The Gozo general hospital will be able to take 450 patients. Mr Fearne said that the area of the hospital will be split between a section used by the general public and a part used for medical tourism. Three hundred and fifty beds will be provided for the public and the rest will be for medical tourists.

Projects Malta together with the Health Department is finalizing the plans with the preferred bidders. He said work will start once they get the go-ahead from Mepa. “Hopefully, work will start in the coming weeks,” he added.

 

‘I never discussed personal financial matters with Konrad Mizzi’

Mr Fearne said he became friends with Konrad Mizzi following the latest election campaign and they eventually became colleagues.

“I admire Konrad for his vision and focus. He is also excellent at project management. All the things I was involved in with him were above board. Of course, I never discussed his personal financial matters.”

He said the Panamagate scandal is not related to health, but with his own personal matters and he believes that there was no need for him to discuss these things with him. 

Asked if this news somehow tarnishes the Ministry’s reputation, Mr Fearne said that the positive results speak for themselves.

 

Work on Mother and Baby centre to start later this year, finished in two years

The Parliamentary Secretary announced that work on the Mother and Baby Centre will be starting later this year. He said the project should be concluded within a period of two years.

He rebutted claims that this project is not a priority, especially as there are still some 60 elderly people occupying beds at Mater Dei, waiting to be transferred to a residential home.

“Two years ago when I was appointed Parliamentary Secretary, I listed a number of priorities, all of which will eventually be concluded. The Mother and Child Centre is only one of the many things we have planned.”

He said the Ministry did manage to increase the number of beds at Mater Dei by some 90 and mentioned that the new Oncology Centre, the refurbishment of Sir Paul Boffa Hospital and the embellishment of Karin Grech Hospital will help reduce the number of patients waiting for a bed.

 

15 new consultant posts in a year

Reacting to the criticism that the number of consultants at Mater Dei cannot keep up with the demand, Mr Fearne said that “in previous years, there would be from one to two consultant posts a year. It is true that every consultant adds to the expense. But our aim is to improve the service.”

He said that at the moment, there are hundreds of consultants as 15 new posts are being given each year.

 

PS Chris Fearne categorically denies that new medicines being supplied are of an inferior quality

The Parliamentary Secretary for Health has categorically denied allegations that the medicines being bought are of an inferior quality.

Doctors who spoke with this newsroom have complained that, despite cutting the list of out-of-stock medicines, the government was buying medicines from different suppliers and the quality of the products was inferior.

“This is a lie. I categorically deny this statement. We buy medicines that are of good quality as stipulated by EU standards. Every medicine that is introduced in Malta has to be approved by the European Medicines Authority and the local authority.”

He said there are a lot of forgeries and fake medicines around the globe, but these do not have the authorisation of the European Medicines Authority, insisting that this is the mechanism which ensures that the medicines which are introduced into Malta are safe and of the best quality.

 

Concrete problem at Mater Dei not limited to Emergency Department

The ‘voluminous report’ concluded after an inquiry carried out by Arup on the quality of the concrete used in the building of Mater Dei has shown that the problem is not limited to the Emergency Department.

Without specifying which other departments have defective concrete, Mr Fearne confirmed that the problem goes beyond the Emergency Department.

“We are currently discussing with our architects how we should mitigate the problem. The other sections which are affected are not in imminent danger, but they still have to be addressed.”

He said that the findings of the report should be published in the coming weeks together with a number of actions that the Ministry would be taking.

 

Government considering possibility to introduce IVF for same-sex couples

Chris Fearne said that free IVF should not only be made available for heterosexual couples but should also be extended to gay couples.

“If we say that there should be no discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation, then we should offer this service to lesbian couples as well.”

He also told The Malta Independent on Sunday, that since its introduction in January last year, 17 babies were born through IVF.

On embryo freezing, the Parliamentary Secretary for Health said that the law as it is proposed limits the number of embryos which can be frozen, contrary to other countries where the number of embryos which can be frozen is practically unspecified.

Mr Fearne said he was hopeful that through embryo vitrification, the success rate of IVF procedures will increase.

 

Two new car parks at Mater Dei

Mr Fearne also announced that two new car parks will be built to alleviate the parking problem at Mater Dei hospital. The new car parks will create between 500 and 600 new parking spaces.

He did not specify where the two car parks would sit.

 

Malta’s first Patient Charter to be launched

Mr Fearne said that on 11th April the government will launch a consultation document which will lead to the creation of Malta’s first Patient Charter.

This Charter will list the rights of the citizens to public health services as provided by the state. He said the consultation period is of two months and the document will also include a number of new proposals.

Details on the Patient Charter will be revealed later this month. Mr Fearne explained that many countries have this charter which highlights the standards for patients and service providers in the health sector.

“Through this Charter, we will be committing ourselves to keep our public health service up to a certain standard. It will dwell on service accessibility, protection of private information and the citizen’s right for legal remedy.”

 

Plans for Malta to become a Medical Research Centre

Mr Fearne said there are plans that Malta becomes a Medical Research Centre in the future.

“We want Malta to become a research base, a centre for medical education. That is why together with Barthes University we are working to have another nursing school set up on the island.”

 

Free diabetes medicine to be made available from next week

Glipton, a class of medicine used by diabetes patients that has been in Malta at least since January, was not made available to the public because the government was waiting for the arrival of another medicine which is needed to complement it, the repaglinide.

Mr Fearne explained that following the National Diabetes Strategy launched last November, the government started a process to bring these medicines to be included in the government’s medicines list.

“Glipton arrived sooner, but to use them you also need the repaglinide (another class of medicines used for diabetes). The latter arrived this week and it will be handed to the Central Procurement and Supplies Unit on Tuesday.”

 

The interview with Mr Chris Fearne was conducted before Prof. Albert Fenech’s resignation from Parliament

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