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People need to go to GPs first, not specialists – health minister

Health Ministry says people need to refer to their GPs as the first point of reference for primary health care instead of Mater Dei Hospital's specialists.

Bianca Caruana
7 August 2012, 12:00am
Health Minister Joseph Cassar says too many people are spending more money than necessary on specialists when GPs could identify the problem at a cheaper rate
More than 300,000 clients were treated in all national health centres and peripheral clinics across Malta in 2011 but Health Minister Joe Cassar is still calling on the Maltese to use these clinics as their first point of care instead of Mater Dei Hospital.

During a press conference at the Paola Health Centre, Cassar said that too many people were making appointments with specialists instead of referring to their GPs, who could holistically treat them at a cheaper rate.

Although statistics show that many people are using the primary health care service, some are still not utilising the specialist services provided by the health centres, Cassar said.

“It is important to teach the Maltese regarding the importance of GPs and health centres as the first point reference. I’m concerned that despite the provision of specialist care services within the centres, many people are still not making use of these services and going to MDH. The people need to know that these specialists are able to help them in the same way as those working at MDH,” Cassar said.

The minister also said that many clients were failing to go for their appointments at a specific time which meant others were being left to wait for a longer time than necessary.

“We can understand that some people are unable to attend for various reasons, but they must inform the clinics so we can give that appointment slot to other urgent cases. The same goes for those at outpatient clinics at MDH. We have recorded 40% of outpatient non-attendees all throughout the hospital which is not a small percentage,” Cassar said.

Utilising the services of the health centres could reduce the waiting lists for certain services, Mater Dei Hospital's Chief Medical Officer Dr Natasha Azzopardi Muscat said.

“Making use of primary care services may hold off from the need to use secondary health care services, particularly in the outpatient departments. We need to increase people’s awareness of these services available which are just as specialised as those at Mater Dei,” Azzopardi Muscat said.

Primary healthcare service CEO Edward Borg said that the number of services being made available at the centres was increasing to avoid longer waiting lists and referrals.“I also want to remind people going to the centres, to take their ID card. We cannot treat people without an ID card unless it is an emergency. Clients also need to stick to their stipulated appointment times. If they cannot attend, they must inform the clinics,” Borg said.

'40% of outpatient non-attendees' or postponed appointments? There is a great difference. U fejn hu it-tabib tal-ghazla tieghek?
"We have recorded 40% of outpatient non-attendees all throughout the hospital which is not a small percentage, Cassar said." How is this possible? Whenever anyone of my parents attends @ Mater Dei outpatients department, and they ensure they keep well within the appointed time to ensure service, they would still have to wait for hours, sometimes two hours and more. If it is true that 40% of appointees do not attend, there should not be the long waiting to get inside a clinic and be seen to.
chris schembri
First they tried to dismantel these health centres by reducing staff and opening times. And now they are saying we should use them ?
R Gatt
Interesting-good to know Dr Cassar that in your private practice days you used to refuse patients that were not referred by a GP. Mhux hekk. Imbaghad vera kienet taqlalek il-mara ;)
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