The Malta Independent 14 July 2024, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: Keeping waiting lists short

Wednesday, 31 May 2023, 09:37 Last update: about 2 years ago

Nearly 8,500 patients are waiting longer than stipulated in the Patient Charter to undergo surgical interventions.

This is not a number. They are 8,454 people who, for different reasons, have not received the medical services that they are entitled to.

Of these, 3,582 were orthopaedic cases, 2,949 were general surgical procedures and another 686 were ophthalmic cases. Two cardiothoracic surgery cases also exceeded the stipulated time, together with 19 dental cases and 30 gynaecological cases.

The information was given by Health Minister Chris Fearne last Monday in reply to a parliamentary question submitted by Nationalist MP Claudette Buttigieg. It refers to the patients who, at the time the PQ is answered, were on the waiting list.

The Patient Charter lays down that care or intervention must be initiated in urgent cases within eight weeks from the time that the clinical decision was taken, and within 18 months for a condition that is causing a lesser degree of pain, dysfunction or disability.

There was a time when, with the country having to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, surgical interventions needed to be delayed. That is understandable, but we have turned the corner from the pandemic and this can no longer be an excuse.

There were also situations when, due to industrial action ordered earlier this year by the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses, operations were also postponed, with the result that patients with planned procedures were being sent home. The industrial action was suspended in the second week of April, although no agreement has as yet been announced between the government and the MUMN.

The weeks during which the industrial action was taking place must have contributed to the backlog in the waiting list for surgical interventions. We are in no way putting the blame on nurses, who have their sacrosanct right to take industrial action. What we are saying is that the two sides should make it a point to resolve the impasse as quickly as they can, and avoid a situation where more patients will have to be placed on the waiting list.

Needless to say, every patient waiting for a surgical intervention, whether minor or major, is facing a period of stress and anxiety. If the time between when the decision for an intervention is taken and the actual procedure takes place is prolonged unnecessarily, this stress and anxiety grows. Added to this, it is also possible that the medical condition of the patient deteriorates.

So everything possible should be done by the health authorities to see that these 8,454 patients get the service that they require, without further delay. And everything possible should then be made for the waiting list to be kept short.

Malta has always been proud – under different administrations – of the medical services it offers. Our doctors, nurses and all paramedical staff have always gone the extra mile to provide the best possible care to their patients.

We should strive hard to keep up this good name. It is in the country’s best interests that our medical services remain top-notch.


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