Updated | 'Opposition only interested in negative attacks,' government says

Shadow health minister Claudette Buttigieg said the government was ignoring the management issues at Mater Dei

Shadow health minister Claudette Buttigieg has criticized the government over ‘poor management’ at Mater Dei hospital, taking the administration to task over its selection of hospital staff.

Stressing that hospital management had been hand-picked by the Prime Minister and the health ministry, Buttigieg said that hospital CEO Ivan Falzon was currently nowhere to be found. “He has chosen to run away rather than face the music, and has dropped the burden on somebody else’s shoulders,” she said, adding that Falzon was chosen as CEO despite his inexperience in the health sector and in hospital management.

“Although media reports themselves have claimed that the Accident and Emergency sector at the hospital is currently ‘at breaking point’, the government is choosing to bury its head in the sand and not deal with the issue head-on,” she said, adding that the government was once again proving that it had no roadmap for the health sector.

Buttigieg also called this summer’s crisis “the worst ever”, saying that the acting CEO and the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses among others had suggested this fact.

Referring to reports that the Accident and Emergency Department were overflowing, Buttigieg quoted the president of the Maltese Medical Association, Gordon Caruana Dingli, who said that the situation was a result of a shortage of empty beds within other departments in the hospital, as well as a vast number of people who could make use of health centres still insisting on going to hospital.

Last week the Nationalist party leaked a hospital activity report that showed the number of admissions among others. She reiterated that the report was previously published under the PN administration, which showed that there was no secrecy in the sector. Parliamentary Secretary Chis Fearne last week said that the report was not secret but it was merely written and designed for managerial purposes.

The general elections candidate Graziella Schembri, who accompanied Buttigieg, said that patients at Mater Dei were being allowed to languish in corridors.

“The worst part is that while patients are losing their dignity, those in charge of the health sector are giving the impression that their situation is not so dire,” she said, criticising the government’s inaction.

She added that the government’s reaction to the activity report published last week had resulted in an ‘attack’ on the character of the person who had passed on the report to the PN.

“This,” she added, “is further confirmation of the lack of a suitable plan in the health sector.”

Health ministry says opposition is only interested in negative attacks

In a reaction, the health ministry spoke of the previous administration’s shortcomings in the health sector in response to the Nationalist party’s attacks on the improper management of Mater Dei.

“Those responsible for the construction of a hospital that was too small and for the endless lists of out of stock medications and waiting lists are now launching attacks against the hospital and its workers,” the statement reads.

It points out that shadow energy minister Claudette Buttigieg chose not to address the misinterpretation of some of the figures she had quoted from the hospital activity report during a previous press conference.

“Her choice of destructive criticism are a shining example of the negativity in the Nationalist party,” the statement adds, stressing that the bed shortage was a result of the bad planning it had carried out itself.

“The current administration started working on the issue to resolve the problems the previous administration left strewn behind it ever since it came into office.”

The ministry added that the first phase of the Medical Administration Unit, by the Accident and Emergency Unit was projected for completion by the end of this year.

“This new section will be home to 68 new beds and the new unit will host 300 new beds in total,” it added.

The statement also pointed out that the government had managed to significantly cut down waiting lists. It explained that waiting lists for MRI tests had dropped from a year and a half to a four months among others.

“These positive results will not be washed away by any of the negative criticism the opposition makes,” it added, explaining that there were still various steps ahead including a €200 million investment to increase bed capacity.