[WATCH] Bring your own chocolate! Chris Fearne says Mater Dei won't promote sugars

Health Minister Chris Fearne says hospital has not stopped people from consuming sugars but simply stopped the sale of chocolates and sugary drinks

Health Minister Chris Fearne said that he remembers a time when cigarettes were sold at St Luke's Hospital
Health Minister Chris Fearne said that he remembers a time when cigarettes were sold at St Luke's Hospital
Chris Fearne on sugars at Mater Dei Hospital

Nurses and doctors were up in arms after Mater Dei Hospital introduced a new policy banning the sale of chocolates, sweets and sugary drinks on hospital grounds.

The health professionals took to social media to lambast the decision, which also had the president of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses fuming.

"We are trusted to save the lives of patients but we are not trusted to make our own decision on what to consume," one of the reactions went.

But the controversy has not ruffled Health Minister Chris Fearne. Speaking to MaltaToday, he has defended the hospital management's decision, insisting that in no way did it impinge on the individual's right to consume what they wanted.

Fearne said that Mater Dei will no longer be selling chocolate in any way, shape or form, but this did not mean that people were prohibited from ingesting sugars in the hospital.

"We are not going to stop hospital staff and patients from having sweets and chocolate. They are free to do so," he said.

He related an anecdote from his student days at St Luke's Hospital in Pietà. Fearne recalled how the hospital canteen used to sell cigarette packs at the time.

"I remember how myself and a few other students put pressure on the government of the day to stop selling cigarettes in the hospital. For a long time now, hospitals no longer sell cigarettes but we felt that we needed to call attention to the sale of sugars too because they are not good for our health," Fearne said.

He added that the new initiative was working because journalists were asking about the issue and passing on the message. "If we want to rid Malta of obesity, we have to start somewhere."

When asked about diet drinks and products that contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin rather than sugar, Fearne shrugged and said that these did not cause any specific problems and are less dangerous than products which contain actual sugars.