Labour's shadow minister for health Marie Louise Coleiro Preca has pledged that medicines provided by government will be in regular supply under Labour, and that problems of drugs being out of stock would be the exception, not the rule.
At a press conference following up on the party's proposals for health today, Coleiro Preca and candidates Chris Fearne and Adrian Meli said a new Labour government would implement an IT system to help the procurement unit forecast the amount of medicine needed, and enter into agreements with companies which could provide medicine within 48 hours to solve stock problems.
"Government's procurement system has been a total failure resulting in patients having to buy the medicine which they are entitled to receive for free. Others, who could not afford to buy the medicine, ended up without taking any medicines at all," Coleiro Preca said.
She accused government of remaining impassive in the face of a system which was failing resulting in repeated cases of out of stock medicine. Coleiro Preca and Fearne insisted that instead of tackling the problem, the PN was now proposing to partly refund patients for buying out of stock medicine giving it the excuse not to address the issue.
"It is unfortunate that the PN was incapable of finding a system that was both efficient and capable. How is the government planning to address the issue of medicines being out of stock at Mater Dei Hospital? How does it intend to provide residents at St Vincent de Paule with cough medication which is today is not even available?" Coleiro Preca.
Chris Fearne said a future government would provide the procurement unit with an IT system facilitating the forecast of amount of medicine needed while making sure that the procurement unit was up to date with international medical recommendations.
"Last year government purchased two million tablets of Simvastatin 80 when just two months before, a recommendation was made against giving new patients this medication. Doctors obviously followed this recommendation and the tablets purchased were wasted," he said.
He also said that a Labour government would enter into agreements for companies to supply medicine within 48 hours if the original supplier was unable to deliver medicine in time.
"We want to make sure that the issue of out-of-stock medicine becomes the exception and not the rule," he said.
Questioned by MaltaToday when the system would be in place and how much was it calculated to cost, the PL said that it was costing all its proposals and that there was a process to be followed with regard to the timeline.
On his part, Adrian Meli said there was an increase of out of stock medicine last year. A pharmacist by profession, Meli said pharmacies implementing the POYC scheme end up facing angry patients who could not understand why the pharmacy itself had a particular medicine, which at the same time would be out of stock through the POYC scheme.
The three candidates also denied that Labour's proposal to carry out osteoporosis screening during breast screening had been a leaked proposal from the PN.
Earlier today, Health Minister Joe Cassar said proposals for the government to include the screening for osteoporosis together with its national breast screening programme had been leaked to Labour. "Our plan was to introduce a process where family doctors can recommend their patients to the screening programme."
"This is irrelevant jargon," Coleiro Preca said. "Government had five years in which it could have implemented this proposal but it didn't. We absolutely deny it."
On whether it was sustainable for a future government to pay for private operations at a time when ageing population was on the increase, Coleiro Preca said all proposals should be looked at holistically. "Improving primary health care means saving money on services at Mater Dei Hospital which in turn would make it possible to invest in other sectors," she said.
Coleiro Preca also refused to reply to questions over comments made by former Labour deputy leader Anglu Farrugia, insisting that the press conference was about health.