Health Ministry & Vitals Global Health respond to MMSA concerns
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During a meeting held with the Minister for Health Chris Fearne, the Malta Medical Students’ Association (MMSA), and the Chief Operations Officer of VGH Eric Buehrens raised a number of concerns regarding the future of the Maltese Health care system. The main points discussed included:
1) Further Plans for privatisation within the local health sector;
2) The effect Barts medical students would have on clinical rotations for both clinical students and Foundation Doctors;
3) How Government planned to ensure quality patient care for patients being treated in the PPP hospitals run by VGH as to how evidence-based methods treating the patients will be ensured.
Minister Fearne reassured the Association that Primary Healthcare would be run by Government. He explained that the new Kirkop Health Centre and the regional health centre at Paola -Paola Hub- will be managed solely by Government.
Other major projects that are planned will be built on the Mater Dei campus. These include the Mother and Child Hospital, the new Out Patients Block, and a new Mental Health Facility. All the above mentioned, explained Minister Fearne, will fall under the responsibility of Mater Dei management, and thus under the sole responsibility of the Government.
He said that the recently set up Board of Directors of Mental Health is currently discussing a holistic strategy for mental health in Malta. This will include the refurbishment of parts of Mount Carmel Hospital. Psychiatric care given at Mount Carmel Hospital is thus very likely to remain managed by Government.
Present at the meeting were also representatives from Vitals Global Healthcare, who were also asked about their plans for the running of Gozo General Hospital, Karin Grech Hospital and St Luke’s Hospital.
The MMSA voiced its concerns about the University of Malta (UOM) students’ educational attachments at Karin Grech hospital (KGH), and how these will be impacted now that KGH is run by VGH. In this regard, both the Minister for Health and VGH officials confirmed that attachments at both Gozo General Hospital and Karin Grech will still take place, as has been done in previous years.
They also explained that doctors will still have the opportunity of rotating through the PPP’s hospitals, as per Foundation School agreement. “The vast majority of clinical teaching for Barts students will be based in Gozo, St Luke’s, and the community. Clinical teaching at Mater Dei will be staggered, to ensure that a small number of Barts students are present at Mater Dei campus at any given time.”
Concerns regarding the delays in construction works of Barts Medical School in Gozo, along with the delay in development of KGH and St. Luke’s facilities, were also brought to attention.
On this issue, the MMSA asked whether Barts students would make use of Mater Dei’s educational facilities, thus hindering our students from attaining the best medical exposure and education possible.
On this, both entities explained how the University of Malta and Barts Medical School “were collaborating closely on timetabling and other matters, to see that all students receive high quality education and exposure.”
The Medical Students’ Association was reassured that works on the Barts Campus had started, “and that for the first year these would participate in lectures in Gozo, with no impact to Maltese medical students.”
When asked by the MMSA how VGH and the Government planned to ensure high quality care to patients, and to provide assurance that profit would not be given priority to patient care, VGH said that their first and foremost focus was that of providing high quality care to all patients. The officials explained that in order to attract foreign patients, they would need to provide high quality services, and a reputation for quality care.
VGH officials also explained how they were already in the process of applying for JCI accreditation for all its hospitals. This would ensure that standards are maintained at all times.
Minister Fearne also explained that VGH were bound by a number of Key Performance Indicators which Government monitored monthly, which ensured that obligations and standards are adhered to. In the event that KPIs are defaulted on, “VGH will be penalised as per signed contract. In the case of a major contract breach, Government will step in to take over the running of all three hospitals,” he said.
MMSA were reassured that beds and services reserved for Maltese and Gozitan patients will remain free of charge. Officials said that “VGH will be charging international patients who will occupy beds in excess of the beds reserved for Government, that is in excess of the 250 beds in Gozo hospital, and the 270 beds at Karin Grech, and 80 beds at the new st Luke’s Hospital reserved for Government.”
The MMSA explained that student members of the organisation had chosen this profession to be of service to their patients, and to provide the best care possible, and that they deserved to have everything set clearly before them, as well as clear understanding of future plans. They should not look at their future with uncertainty, they said.
The MMSA expressed its wish for all stakeholders to be brought to the table to discuss future plans, and to pull the same rope, ensuring that the Maltese would continue to receive the best quality care possible.
The Minister added that the door was always open for fruitful discussions to take place.
The MMSA said that it will continue to monitor the above-mentioned issues, and “persistently advocate for our students’ future, and continue to advocate for a healthcare system that puts its patients at its centre – a healthcare system whose cornerstone is the education that our health care providers receive.”