Fearne can’t wash his hands
Surgeons wash and scrub their hands meticulously before they operate, even though they wear gloves.
Claudette Buttigieg is a PN MP – firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter: @ButClaudette
18 November 2000
They have been doing this since the 19th century. Unfortunately, even with the combination of gloving and washing, infections after surgery can and do occur.
Chris Fearne, a respected paediatric surgeon by profession, thinks he can apply handwashing to politics. Sadly for him, in politics, there is no room for handwashing. What happens under the minister’s watch is strictly his responsibility. If you’re in charge, you own it.
Take the recent shocking news that ITU patients were given expired Tamiflu medicine.
We cannot point our fingers at the healthcare professionals. Although some of the facts are still unclear, since the minister is trying hard to keep the matter under wraps, healthcare professionals cannot be blamed since they were not responsible for the difficult situation they were in. The choice was not between giving expired medicine or non-expired medicine. It was between giving expired medicine or no medicine at all. Is that a real choice?
Chris Fearne has tried to normalise this incident by saying that it has happened before. So the obvious question arises. If this is normal practice, why did Chris Fearne announce it publicly and announced that he had ordered an investigative inquiry into the matter?
This case has really given the lie to Chris Fearne’s persistent claim that, under his watch, we have no problems with out-ofstock medicines.
Other serious questions arise from this case. For example, is this case revealing an even more shocking reality: That some medicines are kept in stock even though they’ve expired?
Maybe this is the consequence of the unwarranted politicisation of the health system. There seems to be a strict order from up above: “NEVER use the phrase OUT OF STOCK … NEVER.” Alas, at what price?
Our medicines system begins with the CPSU (Central Procurement and Supplies Unit). It is the unit which buys and stores all medicines and medical supplies before distributing them to all hospitals and directly to patients through POYC (Pharmacy Of Your Choice).
When a pharmacy, department, ward or unit runs low on a particular medicine, the staff signal an alert which should indicate to the CPSU that a delivery of that item must be done as soon as possible.
In the past, such a signal was OOS (Out Of Stock). This usually meant that there was a small amount of the item in stock but that the amount would soon run out if new stock was not delivered.
Now, true to Tagħna Lkoll’s Orwellian standards, the use of OOS is strictly prohibited. Alternative phrases are being used, like “pending order.” The alert system is not working as it should.
This is why Tamiflu, which was initially imported to Malta during the 2009 epidemic, is out of stock now but had previously never been so.
Nor is the Tamiflu incident an isolated case.
Back in February 2016, several medicines were not available at the ITU, the intensive therapy unit whose patients’ condition is critical. The system may not have marked the medicines as “out of stock” but they definitely were not available.
The list of over 16 missing medicines, used in an ITU clinical setting, included nebuliser solutions, heparin and other medication crucial for healthcare professionals who are doing their utmost to save lives.
It has become clear that Chris Fearne has been engulfed by the selling of three of our hospitals. The ministry he leads has sadly forgotten the dignity of the patient. No amount of handwashing will clear him of his responsibilities. The stains won’t go away.
The Malta Independent Friday 18 November 2016