[WATCH] Malta penalised in European health rating due to hard line against abortion

Health Parliamentary secretary Chris Fearne says government welcomes improvement in EHCI rating and says that some points are lost due to 'untouchable factors'

Parliamentary secretary Chris Fearne • Photo by Ray Attard
Parliamentary secretary Chris Fearne • Photo by Ray Attard

Video is unavailable at this time.

Parliamentary secretary for health Chris Fearne said that Malta had been penalized in the points it achieved in the Euro Health Consumer Index 2015, due to its hard line against the introduction of abortion among others.

Speaking after a press conference earlier today, Fearne said that Malta would always be penalized because of its stance, but that it was something that would not be introduced as the government is completely against it.

The study, the EHCI looks into Europe's healthcare systems, and ranked Malta in 23rd place taking it up four places compared to 2014. It analyzes patient rights and information, access to care, treatment outcomes, range and reach of services, prevention, as well as use of pharmaceuticals. The rating also awards scoring for countries that allow abortion. Malta is one of four countries in Europe – Cyprus, Ireland and Poland – where free abortion rights do not exist.

Fearne added that the fact that abortion was not allowed also meant that Malta has a relatively high rate of babies born with congenital diseases, which further continues to detract some points from the country.

The study, which awarded Malta 663 points this year, marks an increase of 81 points over last year and described the system as providing “decent acccessibility, but not too strong on treatment results.”

Fearne explained that the government had welcomed the improvement in the ranking, where Malta surpassed other countries like Greece and Poland.

“This is an encouraging result even though there is much yet to be done in the sector,” he said.

Fearne also added that the report had made particular reference to the improvements in waiting lists for medical procedures, dentristry, oncology and renal illnesses.

Referring to criticism in the report that Malta and Sweden were the only two countries not to have introduced healthcare legislation based on the right of patients, Fearne added that the government was working on a patient’s charter to come into force in March and April this year, and on e-prescriptions later this year to allow doctors to send prescriptions for their patients directly to the pharmacist electronically.

“We are glad we have managed to secure an improvement, given that in other years the system was described as ‘mediocre’ rather than ‘decent’, but we will not rest until we achieve an ‘excellent rating’,” Fearne said.

Among the other developments in the sector this year, Fearne listed the reduction of waiting lists for hip and knee replacement operations, increasing bed capacities across facilities, as well as offering further services at St. Luke’s hospital, and the Gozo General hospital among others.