Muscat: We are building a future-proof health system

After solving problems such as waiting lists and out-of-stock medicines, a new Labour government would focus its efforts on healthcare infrastructure, Labour Party leader says

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (R) (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (R) (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

The government had brought about a “huge change” in the country’s healthcare system over the past four years and this was easily noticeable by people, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said this morning.

Speaking at a press conference outlining the party’s proposals for the upcoming election, Muscat said the government had inherited a system that “was not ready for the present” which included a hospital which was smaller than required in every department, bad management systems that resulted in beds placed in corridors, a long list of out-of-stock medicines and long waiting lists.

Moreover, he said that while Mater Dei Hospital was a good hospital, albeit a small one, a number of other healthcare facilities, such as the Gozo General Hospital, had been allowed to deteriorate.

Muscat said that his administration, had brought work on the Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre back on track, had started work a number of hospitals and clinics around the island. In addition to this, he said that waiting lists had been reduced to manageable levels, there were no beds left in corridors and out-of-stock medicines were now a thing of the past.

“Not because we spent more money, in fact we saved money, but because we introduced management systems that one would expect to find in a multi-million Euro sector like health,” Muscat said.  

Health minister Chris Fearne, who was also present at the press conference, announced that the Medicines’ Authority had signed an agreement with eight other countries that will see the countries negotiate medicine prices with multinational pharmaceutical companies as a single consortium.

“This will allow us to get better value for money when we are buying medicines,” Muscat said. “It is emblematic of the way this government solves problems. Not by throwing money at them but by discussion with stakeholders.”

Fearne said that the achievements attained in the past four years would now act a “springboard” that would allow the country’s healthcare system to reach the next level.

He stressed that healthcare would remain free, arguing that the Labour Party was “the only guarantee” for this remaining so.

Fearne insisted, however, that healthcare remaining free does not mean there is no room for the private sector.

“There can be sectors where we choose to work together and others where patients can have a choice to use the private sector instead,” he said, pointing to Labour’s proposal to give tax rebate to those taking out private health insurance.

Like Muscat, Fearne noted that Mater Dei Hospital was too small and pledged that a new Labour government would build a new outpatients section just outside Mater Dei. He said that this would reduce the pressure on the current outpatient’s department which, owing to its small size, could not cope and was forced to give people appointments that were too far in the future.

He said that a new five-storey underground carpark would be built beneath this new department, the first floor of which would serve as a bus terminus so as to reduce congestion outside the hospital.

In addition, a Labour government would also build a children’s hospital just outside Mater Dei that would serve to free up beds at main hospital, and a psychiatric hospital in Swatar that would be connect to Mater Dei by a tunnel. The government would also refurbish the current Mount Carmel Hospital.

According to Fearne, this would result in a significant increase in jobs in the healthcare sector.

The minister said that the list of free medicines would be increased and the government intended to offer all cancer medication, as well as prostate medication and that required for osteoporosis and heart problems, for free. Fearne also announced that an agreement had been signed with a supplier of diabetes sticks and that an order of 65 million had been made.

“This will leave more money in people’s pockets and will also help us tackle the most prevalent conditions in Malta,” he said.

Finally, Fearne said that as part of the government’s push to offer some services within the community, work on a €1 million clinic in Kirkop was underway, while the necessary permits were in place for work to start on a health centre in Paola. He said the government also intended to set up a similar type of clinic in the North, probably Mosta.

He said that a remote patient monitoring pilot project had been started and that this would be expanded if Labour were to be given a second term.

“It means that we will be installing monitoring equipment in people’s homes – obviously with their consent – that will inform us when a patient’s condition is deteriorating before they do,” he said.

The system, according to Fearne, would revolutionise the country’s healthcare system, with the pilot project, run using patients suffering with heart disease, having already shown a 41% reduction in the number of admissions.


I will not be commenting on a report I have not seen - Muscat

Asked whether he felt the police should have investigated the demining observations noted in the FIAU report Muscat said he would not comment on documents he has not seen and the “publication of which was dubious”.

“I think that in the coming days we should have more insight into how this report was put together,” said Muscat.

He stressed that the “crucial point” was that allegations were made about him.

“Allegations were made that said I had taken money, or owned a secret company or that my wife and I somehow siphoned off funds,” said Muscat. “This is a complete lie which ultimately precipitated this election and which has caused the European Parliament to ask me to testify. An absolute lie.”

Muscat went on to say that in France, similar accusations were levelled at newly elected president Emanuel Macron, yet the documents were shown to be false.

“Similar lies were made without any proof and it was said that since there was no evidence, nothing could be done. In my case, there is a witch hunt based on a false piece of evidence – if this ever existed – and papers from dubious sources,” he added.

Muscat said he was looking forward to the publication of inquiring magistrate Aaron Bugeja’s report, adding that he was serene about it since he knew the whole truth.

“The whole point is that I will take responsibility for my actions if the magistrate says I have one any of the things I am being accused of. I will leave there and then. The leader of the opposition has not made the same pledge. He is basing his political career on a lie and I would expect him to resign when the report is published, no matter what his role is,” he said.