Fearne can’t wash his hands

Sur­geons wash and scrub their hands metic­u­lously be­fore they op­er­ate, even though they wear gloves.

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Claudette But­tigieg is a PN MP – cbut­tigieg08@gmail.com, 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

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