‘Health requires bi-partisan approach’, says minister

Health Minister Godfrey Farrugia accepts Claudio Grech’s invitation for cooperation in health.

Health Minister Godfrey Farrugia.
Health Minister Godfrey Farrugia.

Despite inheriting a state-of-the-art hospital, Mater Dei was afflicted by a lack of corporate governance and, therefore, the government wanted to improve the best clinical practices.

These practices, Health Minister Godfrey Farrugia said, would help alleviate the waiting lists problem and lack of beds.

Farrugia was speaking in parliament during the budgetary estimates allocated for his ministry.

"Unfortunately, despite half of the health budget goes towards Mater Dei, the hospital's financial system is practically non-existent. There are no adequate book of accounts and no record of pending payments. The system we inherited is one where not even the inventory system is updated."

Farrugia said structural reforms with realistic objectives were necessary, solutions which had to look beyond partisan politics. "Health requires a bi-partisan approach," the minister said.

"We are experiencing a time of reconciliation and we will continue working together," Farrugia told his shadow minister, Claudio Grech.

"This is what responsibility calls for in ensuring that the dignity of patients and families is respected. As a family doctor, I never want to see this sector as a political football."

Referring to the report prepared by former Nationalist Minister John Dalli, Farrugia revealed that the report found that unions had to fill the void left by a weak management - "so much so that the situation requires a new balance to be achieved between rights and obligations".

The Dalli report, 'Mater Dei Hospital - A better social return', is expected to be made public in the coming days.

"I assure everyone that we will work hand in hand with all... but everyone must keep to the obligations his role determines," he said. Farrugia noted that tradeunionism was "close to his heart" and believed in it.

The minister said that, following the detailed analysis carried out throughout the year, 2014 will be the year when challenges will be faced, paving the way for Mater Dei to recover from the complication it suffers from.

"We will be accountable, determined and flexible enough so that, with all stakeholders, we adopt new practices and refine the existent ones."

He announced that, in agreement with the General Workers Union and the Union Haddiema Maghqudin, an ambulances responders service will be set up. Thanks to protocols involving key performance indictors, Farrugia said patients would benefit from an emergency service which would be regulated by a patient tracking system.

The system was regulated in agreement with the nurses' and doctors' unions.

Farrugia said that this year, 40 new beds were created at Mater Dei Hospital - 31 in acute halls, five at the burns unit and four in the urology day ward.

Another infrastructural project to take place next year is the relocation of the helipad on Mater Dei's roof.

"This would result in better direct access between Mater Dei and the Gozo General Hospital," he said.

The health minister said that Gozitan patients requiring chemotherapy would start receiving this service by the end of the year. There was an average of 12 patients per week requiring this service.

He also explained that there could be a delay in the completion of the Oncology Centre at Mater Dei due to the tender adjudication process for the extension of the electrical ring between the hospital and the centre.

The tender, the minister said, was issued twice but the goals required were not met. The current adjudication process was still ongoing. "Public procurement is a transparent process which must be completed according to the law. From our end, we will continue doing all that is possible to see that targets are met".

The department has also issued a call for offers for the procurement of a new MRI.

There could only be one reason why bookkeeping of accounts was not kept. This way anything which is not quite as it should be with payments will be difficult or impossible to trace.