Royal Col­lege of Sur­geons of Ire­land to start of­fer­ing cour­ses in Malta from Jan­uary

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

The Royal Col­lege of Sur­geons of Ire­land will, as of next Jan­uary, start of­fer­ing train­ing cour­ses for Mal­tese health spe­cial­ists, Health Min­is­ter Chris Fearne an­nounced yes­ter­day.

The cour­ses will be of­fered in con­junc­tion with the Med­i­cal School, he said. Speak­ing dur­ing the de­bate on the fi­nan­cial es­ti­mates of the health min­istry, Mr Fearne said the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion had also tried to bring the RCSI to Malta but failed. RCSI will also be es­tab­lish­ing an ex­am­i­na­tions cen­tre in Malta.

The health min­is­ter said the RCSI was the lat­est big name in the in­dus­try to come to Malta.

Turn­ing to other mat­ters, Mr Fearne blasted Op­po­si­tion leader Si­mon Busut­til for crit­i­cis­ing the pur­chase of generic medicines by the state. When shadow health min­is­ter Claudette But­tigieg in­sisted that this was not true, Mr Fearne said this was symp­to­matic of the Op­po­si­tion. “Busut­til is not a leader of the Op­po­si­tion but a leader of no po­si­tion. He has sud­denly changed his po­si­tion on gener­ics just as he changed his po­si­tion on the morn­ing-after pill in a few hours.”

The gov­ern­ment, he said, would be ir­re­spon­si­ble to shun gener­ics and only buy top brand prod­ucts. “If we re­place all gener­ics with top brands the cost of medicines would rise from €60 to €100. This is about sus­tain­abil­ity. This does not mean that we will not lis­ten to those who for some spe­cific rea­son can­not take gener­ics and that we will not make spe­cial al­lowances for them.”

He also ac­cused the PN of be­ing against the hos­pi­tal pri­vati­sa­tion agree­ments “be­cause it did not want what was good for the coun­try.”

He said the gov­ern­ment has started a stock­tak­ing ex­er­cise to iden­tify what med­i­cal equip­ment it will need in the next few years. “We know that we will need a third MRI ma­chine be­cause we es­ti­mate that the de­mand for scans, cur­rently at 20,000, will rise by an­other 10,000 in the next cou­ple of years. We want to see whether the pri­vate sec­tor is in­ter­ested in buy­ing the equip­ment and en­ter into an agree­ment to use it.” Sim­i­lar agree­ments can be drawn up for the use of other equip­ment and ser­vices.

Claudette But­tigieg said this pro­ce­dure had been adopted by the PN gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing for the PET scan. Mr Fearne pointed out that the wait­ing list for the MRI back then was still ex­ten­sive.

“We want to work with the pri­vate sec­tor. This is the same thing we are do­ing with VGH. We are telling them to in­vest €200 mil­lion in the hos­pi­tals. They will run part of the op­er­a­tion while the rest will be used as part of the na­tional health ser­vices.”

Mr Fearne de­fended the deal, say­ing that worker’s rights and con­di­tions were safe­guarded. “The PN does not even know how to read a con­tract prop­erly,” he said. “There are con­se­quences to ev­ery ac­tion but there are worse con­se­quences for in­ac­tion. The Op­po­si­tion does not want this project be­cause it does not want what is good for the coun­try.”

He pro­duced a num­ber of pho­tos, in­clud­ing some of the old kitchens and toi­lets at the St Luke’s and Gozo hos­pi­tal. “You left a rub­bish dump be­hind you and you want to give peo­ple this sort of sec­ond class treat­ment. “

Mr Fearne said the sit­u­a­tion in the health sec­tor had changed greatly since 2013. “To­day we get crit­i­cised if a sin­gle medicine is out of stock. We are be­ing crit­i­cised for not be­ing per­fect in ev­ery sin­gle thing.”

Ear­lier in the de­bate, the shadow min­is­ter men­tioned four types of medicine she claimed were out of stock. “I have in the mean­time emailed the CEO of the CPSU and he has in­formed me that all four are in fact in stock. It seems you are mis­in­formed,” Mr Fearne said. The PN MP re­but­ted by say­ing that medicines fell un­der the re­spon­si­bil­ity of two dif­fer­ent de­part­ments which were out of synch.

At the be­gin­ning of the de­bate, PN MP Claudette But­tigieg slammed gov­ern­ment on the Vi­tals Global Health­care agree­ment, say­ing that on 30 Novem­ber, 2015 the agree­ment with Vi­tals Global Health­care was signed, also stat­ing that on 2 De­cem­ber, 2015 Karl Cini sent a let­ter giv­ing the OK to open ac­counts for cer­tain Panama com­pa­nies.

She said that ac­cord­ing to re­ports, in cor­re­spon­dence with the BSI bank “They are ask­ing re the $1mil­lion de­posit. Is this for ini­tial de­posit only? Is there a min­i­mum they need to keep as run­ning/av­er­age bal­ance?” This email, she said, was dated 26 Novem­ber, 2015. She added that on 2 De­cem­ber, Mr Cini gave the goa­head to Mos­sack Fon­seca to open the bank ac­counts for two Panama com­pa­nies.

She men­tioned the mother com­pa­nies of Vi­tals Global Health­care, and said that the ul­ti­mate mother com­pany is one based in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands, where the ul­ti­mate ben­e­fi­cial owner is still not known to the pub­lic. She also said that a num­ber of th­ese com­pa­nies were cre­ated just days be­fore Vi­tals Global Health­care won the con­tract.

The PN MP told Par­lia­ment that Health Min­is­ter Chris Fearne has a good rep­u­ta­tion, and that he shouldn’t sully it with this con­tract.

She crit­i­cised gov­ern­ment for not pub­lish­ing the whole con­tract. She read from the agree­ment be­tween gov­ern­ment and Vi­tals Global Health­care, which states that gov­ern­ment has the fi­nal say as to whether to pub­lish all in­for­ma­tion in the con­tracts if there were le­gal or po­lit­i­cal obli­ga­tions. “So it is not true that gov­ern­ment was tied and couldn’t pub­lish all the in­for­ma­tion. It says that gov­ern­ment has a le­gal and po­lit­i­cal obli­ga­tion to pub­lish ev­ery­thing. Does this mean Min­is­ters Chris Fearne, Kon­rad Mizzi and the Prime Min­is­ter feel they have the obli­ga­tion to pub­lish this in­for­ma­tion?”

She men­tioned that the ma­jor­ity of num­bers and fig­ures were blanked out.

The PN MP also said that cer­tain things in the con­tract were also not done well, for ex­am­ple where un­der cer­tain ser­vices the phrase “etc.” is used.

She ex­plained that Vi­tals Global Health­care can fire work­ers, if there is a se­ri­ous jus­ti­fi­able cause, how­ever added that there is no def­i­ni­tion as to what con­sti­tutes a se­ri­ous jus­ti­fi­able cause.

The MP also asked if there were due dili­gence checks on the other bid­ders for the con­tract not cho­sen, and how many Mal­tese com­pa­nies showed in­ter­est in this pro­posal.

She then said that the prob­lems with bed space is also an is­sue. At St Vin­cent de Paul home, they are putting five peo­ple in a four per­son room.

She men­tioned cer­tain items which are still out of stock at Mater Dei Hos­pi­tal.

On men­tal health­care, she said that the PN is against the pri­vati­sa­tion of this sec­tor.

She ap­pealed to the min­is­ter to pub­lish the new can­cer plan, since the old one ex­pired. She also asked for the cur­rent stage of the pa­tients’ char­ter.

PN MP Mario Galea spoke about men­tal health­care. “There are 350 mil­lion peo­ple suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion around the world. In Malta, there are around 35,000 suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion. Many of those who suf­fer from it are not seek­ing care, be­cause they are not screened well by doc­tors”.

He said that un­treated de­pres­sion is the main cause of sui­cide. “Malta’s sui­cide rate is be­low EU level, but it is ris­ing like ev­ery coun­try in the world. Sui­cide is more com­mon in men than women and the el­derly in so­cial ex­clu­sion”.

“We must start speak­ing re­spon­si­bly on sui­cide, as we can avoid it. The per­son would be go­ing through a bad time, but the sun will rise again”.

The EU through the Men­tal Health Pact, he said, is call­ing for na­tional strate­gies against sui­cide. He urged Malta to work on such a strat­egy.

Chris Fearne

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