Opposition proposes creation of Parliamentary health committee

Opposition MP Claudio Grech proposes creation of Parliamentary committee on health to tackle long-term strategic problems.

Claudio Grech (right) with Nationalist whip David Agius
Claudio Grech (right) with Nationalist whip David Agius

Long-term strategic problems in the health sectors, such as an ageing population, obesity and diabetes should be addressed by a Parliamentary committee, Opposition MP Claudio Grech said today.

After presenting a motion to Speaker Anglu Farrugia, Grech explained that the opposition was proposing amendments to the Standing Orders to allow the creation of a permanent committee which tackles the health sector.

"We have made it clear from the very start that we are seeking consensus on health and this motion is a tangible proposal to create a space were health can be discussed in depth by both parties and address the relevant  issues."

Pointing out that health presented the country with challenges and opportunities, Grech said that the opposition is proposing a committee composed of three government MPs and two opposition MPs.

The opposition has no intention of hindering the government in the health sector, Grech said, adding that the Labour administration had indicated that it agreed with the creation of such a committee which will be chaired by the government.

"This would offer a perfect opportunity to seek consensus and solutions to strategic problems which the country will be facing in the future."

He added that this would ultimately benefit the patients and stressed that although the opposition could easily resort to scoring political points by criticisng the health sector which, "the opposition is being pro-active."

"I hope that we go beyond frivolous consensus and as I will explain in this evening's budget debate, we have supported a number of government initiatives in the past months. This good will gesture is a clear signal that we are being loyal to our duties. Ultimately, politicians are judged by their ideas and actions."

Asked to explain what are the most pressing issues in the sector, Grech said that demographic trends showed that over the next 15 years, the health services will be under immense pressure due to the aging population. 

"It is a fact that many elderly persons end up occupying beds at Mater Dei because they have no other option. Some of these elderly persons have no family to go back to. The solution to this problem which is bound to increase in the next few years lays in investing in rehabilitation services and in community care."

Grech also listed diabetes - which effects 10% of the population - and obesity among the strategic problems facing the country's health services.

He said these medical condition are also putting a lot of pressure on the health services by creating avoidable admissions which can be diminished by strengthening primary health care.

However, Grech said, the sector is also afflicted by day to day problems such as the shortage of medicines and the overcrowding at Mater Dei and explained that these should also be addressed by the Parliamentary committee.

On the government's declared intention to introduce charges on IVF medicines, Grech said that both parties in Parliament are clearly committed to maintain health services free however he warned that "if the government is intent in changing direction it should do so transparently and shoulder its responsibilities."

The opposition makes no distinction between medical treatment costs and the human resources costs, Grech added, warning against the possibility of government introducing charges by "stealth."

On the report on the state of affairs at Mater Dei Hospital and the health sector being compiled by former PN minister John Dalli, Grech said that he had no qualms in accepting and evaluating recommendations put forward on the sector, "wherever they come from."

proprju illum hrigtu b din l idea?? kellkom 25 sena biex tirrangaw is sahha! ahjar tghidu li ghandkom id deni fuq dak kollu li ser johrog mir rapport ta dalli!
Paul Sammut
L-Onorevoli Grech jidher li hu bniedem ipreparat u li lest biex jahdem.
The PN government made a mess of our health sector. Let no one forget this.
Waiting lists, bed shortages,3 years for a simple operation, out of stock medicines, cancelled appointments, mismanagment that's how the PN left the health sector! about time they start admitting and being pro-active.