Health debate | Albert Fenech calls for rehabilitation of patients with heart problems

House debates financial estimates allocated for the Ministry of Health.

Heart surgeon Albert Fenech.
Heart surgeon Albert Fenech.

Malta's top intervention cardiologist Albert Fenech has made a brief but very effective intervention in parliament during which he urged government to invest in the rehabilitation cardiology department at Mater Dei Hospital.

Although this department was set up around three years ago, yet it only employed one full-time nurse and two part-time nurses.

"These two nurses want to work full-time, but for some reason this is not happening," Fenech said.

Turning on the importance of providing rehabilitation services to patients who underwent cardiology treatment, Fenech said this would not only benefit the patient himself but also the community.

"Countries who have invested in a sound rehabilitation department experience an 80% rate of patients with heart problems returning to work. On the other hand, countries with a weak rehabilitation system see 70% of patients turning to their medical doctor requesting to be certified unfit for work," he said.

Fenech argued that, despite having suffered a heart attack or underwent heart bypass surgery or angioplasty, an individual could still lead a normal life and remain in the workforce. But for this, rehabilitation was crucial.

"Unfortunately, Malta doesn't invest substantial amounts in prevention and much less in rehabilitation. My appeal to the minister is to invest in rehabilitation. Prevention is better and cheaper than cure... and rehabilitation is better and cheaper than pensions," he said.

Grech appeals government to abolish IVF fee

The Opposition's spokesperson for health has reiterated his appeal to government to abolish the fee which will see patients making use of the IVF service paying up to €2,500 for the hormonal treatment.

Grech also requested the ministry for health to explain how government was expecting to generate €1.5 million in revenue.

In his opening remarks, the health shadow minister noted there were several aspects of the health budget which were positive, but there were also certain elements which were a source of concern.

He also noted that the Labour government never recognised that the previous administration had also implemented good measures.

Grech also voiced concern on how the top management was being appointed: "Instead of a call for applications being issued, individuals were being handpicked to fill top positions. This is definitely not good neither for the patients nor for his government. This country has a lot of talent and we should be making use of everyone's talents. Such appointments should become the exception."

Grech also argued that the government was reintroducing the "policy of calculators". He said that while controlling spending was good for balancing books, it might not respect the dignity of the patients.

He noted that the budget failed to refer to rehabilitation services and nothing was said on elderly homes. "There has been a 25% reduction in the capital expenditure for rehabilitation and no increase for community care."

Grech also pointed out the 60% reduction in the capital vote, despite the much-needed refurbishment of certain buildings. "Budget allocations in the past had not been enough to address the problem. Reducing it further complicates matters," he said.

Turning to general practitioners, Grech said the government should encourage health professionals to start joint ventures. "If need be, the government should intervene and help them finance start-ups to start providing services within the community," he said.

On the issue of out-of-stock medicine, the MP said that while this was not a "new" problem, yet the situation has worsened.

"The only solutions the government has turned up with is the publishing of a white paper and a strange decision to provide patients with less amounts of medicine," he said, adding the Opposition would be giving its own opinion and proposals on the white paper.

Grech also said the Opposition was after a policy of consensus: "The country is at crossroads and cooperation is vital."

Further interventions were made by Gozitan MP Frederick Azzopardi - who questioned government's decision to reduce the Gozo blood donation unit's hours - MP Michael Gonzi, who focused on primary healthcare and MP Paula Mifsud Bonnici who spoke about out-of-stock medicine.

Maybe Albert Fenech could do an act of charity, unless he already does it. Charge the elderly with heart problems a token fee!