Labour MP Marie Louise Coleiro Preca wants more from Health Minister Joe Cassar, not just numbers of people using health centres.
Updated with Ministry of Health's statement at 4:15pm
Health Minister Joe Cassar is failing to provide the general public with substantial assessments of the primary health care reform according to Labour's health spokesperson Marie Louise Coleiro Preca.
In a statement issued in reaction to Coleiro Preca’s press conference, the Ministry of Health accused the Opposition of attempting to undermine the work of 632 professionals and workers.
“It is a shame that the Opposition is trying to undermine and discredit the dedicated work being done by professionals and workers in this sector. The Opposition used alleged patients to put all health services in a bad light while failing, as usual to propose concrete ideas for improvement in the health sector,” the statement said.
The ministry said that it was untrue that Health Minister Joe Cassar avoided discussing the primary health care reform after mentioning that the MyHealth system was being used.
However, the ministry did not include any figures on how many people were using the system, instead making reference to what is being provided by the system.
Referring to the consultation process prior to the reform, the Ministry criticised the Opposition for ‘forgetting’ the consultation with all stakeholders involved.
“The fact that all these points which were announced in conferences by both the government and the opposition went unnoticed shows the lack of interest shown by the Opposition in the health sector,” the ministry said.
The ministry said the Opposition ignored the fact that, as was announced yesterday, more than 678,000 services were provided between January and July in 2012.
“But, the work done by these professionals does not mean anything to the Opposition and so it has been ignored,” the ministry said.
The Labour MP said that Cassar’s press conference held yesterday at the Paola Health Centre did not reveal any information regarding the progress of the primary health care reform since 2009 or how successful the myHealth online record system has been since its launch.
“Polyclinics and peripheral clinics have been at the forefront of the Labour Party’s health policy since the 1970s. Since the announcement of the national primary health reform in 2009, after being in the pipeline for 20 years, Cassar is yet to reveal what stage has been reached with the reform and has simply repeated what has already been stated ad nauseam for years,” Coleiro Preca said.
Questioning the success of the online medical record database, myHealth, Coleiro Preca said that General Practitioners claimed that very few to no patients were asking them to access their medical records through this system.
“We have been stating it from the start that it is not viable for a patient or doctor to have to go all the way down to the end of Valletta to get their e-ID and password. People should be able to apply for this within their own community, particularly the elderly,” she said.
Coleiro Preca also criticised the fact that despite being provided with more access to medical records, GPs were concerned about the referral system.
“Family doctors who refer their patients to consultants within the hospital are concerned because patients have to wait for longer than a year to be seen. This is also the case with applying for free medication for chronic conditions. They should not have to wait so long, simply to have a paper signed,” she said.
Claiming to have concrete proposals in hand to improve the situation within the primary health care sector, Coleiro Preca added that throughout the reform, many GPs have learnt about certain reform stages through hear'say, first through their patients and later through the media.
“More consultation is needed with all stakeholders involved to keep them updated and well-informed. We need more substantial evidence to be provided during Cassar’s press conferences showing how the reform is progressing. We need to be given a review of what is being done,” she said.