The Malta Independent 16 October 2019, Wednesday

Three-year project to provide a public community health centre in each town

Giulia Magri Tuesday, 8 October 2019, 19:08 Last update: about 7 days ago

The government is embarking on an ambitious three-year project co create a public community health centre in each town offering health services at community level, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne said.

Fearne was speaking during a press conference with Dr Hans Kluge, Regional Director (Nominee) for the European Region of the World Health Organization (WHO), regarding Malta's progress in areas of mental health and primary care. Kluge was elected as Regional Director during the Regional Committee meeting held in September 2019 in Copenhagen. Malta is the first country he is visiting.

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Health Minister Chris Fearne highlighted that the WHO has good ties with WHO Malta but also gives recognition to the reforms taking place in the healthcare system in the country. Fearne had the opportunity to speak to Kluge regarding the healthcare service plans for the next ten years. "Our healthcare system has over the years developed strong robotic systems which we wish to continue to enhance and use to strengthen our workforce," explained Fearne.

Fearne emphasised bringing healthcare to the community outside of the hospital. "We want to take healthcare out of the hospitals and strengthen the primary healthcare system that we have in our country. We are doing this by integrating even more the GP's in each community centre in Malta and Gozo."  He also mentioned the planning and building of a new mental healthcare hospital and the implementation of the Mental Health Strategy.

Fearne spoke of the work Malta is doing at an international level, and negotiations with pharmaceutical companies on price transparency. "There is a movement across Europe, a movement to come together to negotiate prices in order for there to be price transparency. The Valletta Declaration signatories came together to fight and ensure there is sustainable pricing," said Fearne.

Kluge expressed his satisfaction with the progress Malta has made in lowering treatable and preventable mortality. He also praised the work being done by Minister Fearne regarding the issue of price transparency for medicines on the European agenda, an issue he pointed out as being important to the WHO in terms of extending Universal Health Coverage.

"Malta's population enjoys the second highest healthy life expectancy in the European Union," quoted Kluge from the European Observer report on health services and policies.

He said that like other EU countries, Malta's health system faces challenges brought about increasingly by a diverse and growing population, and ensuring access to medication. He once again praised Fearne for tackling and discussing such challenges, and he expressed that the WHO will provide their aid when it comes to working on the Mental Health Strategy. He said that the construction of a new mental health hospital which forms part of the main hospital will help put an end to mental health stigma.

Kluge said that he was impressed at Malta's aim to embrace AI and implement its use in the healthcare sector. "I urge Malta to adopt an approach that can demonstrate to other countries how adopting innovation can still be fully inclusive and leave no one behind."

Photos Alenka Falzon
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