Pa­tient’s char­ter launched

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Health Min­is­ter Chris Fearne yes­ter­day launched the pa­tient’s char­ter, a doc­u­ment that clearly iden­ti­fies the rights of the pa­tient.

It is struc­tured around eight prin­ci­ples: health pro­tec­tion, access, in­for­ma­tion, par­tic­i­pa­tion and in­formed con­sent, pri­vacy and con­fi­den­tial­ity, dig­nity and re­spect, safe health care and lastly, com­ments and com­plaints.

This char­ter was for­mu­lated af­ter wide and ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion across all of so­ci­ety. As it comes into force, and its im­pact starts to be felt, this will give the Health Depart­ment the op­por­tu­nity to mon­i­tor feed­back, with the view of fur­ther im­prov­ing on it in the fu­ture. This was the fore­word of a doc­u­ment cir­cu­lated to the press and other stake­hold­ers, which delves into fur­ther de­tail of the char­ter.

At a press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, Mr Fearne said that the time when doc­tors, in a some­what pa­tro­n­is­ing way, would ex­pect the pa­tient to sim­ply fol­low their or­ders and be grate­ful for the ser­vice is gone. He said that while this was a re­al­ity in the past, now pa­tients have much more ex­ten­sive access to solid in­for­ma­tion, via on­line rep­utable jour­nals, and must there­fore par­tic­i­pate in the de­ci­sion mak­ing process when it comes to treat­ment.

“The pa­tient’s char­ter, for the first time ever, lays out, black on white, what Mal­tese cit­i­zens can ex­pect from pub­lic health ser­vices. The char­ter will lead to a cul­tural change in the way pa­tients access state health­care ser­vices, and will also change the re­la­tion­ship be­tween pro­fes­sion­als and pa­tients.”

He said that the char­ter will be ap­pli­ca­ble to all govern­ment health cen­tres, such as Karen Grech Hospi­tal, Mount Carmel Hospi­tal and the Gozo Gen­eral Hospi­tal.

Among the var­i­ous rights that the char­ter delves into, it will al­low pa­tients to be able to access their files, as well as the right to change con­sul­tant. Cur­rently, one must seek ap­proval from the cur­rent con­sul­tant be­fore be­ing al­lowed to change to another. This will no longer be the case.

“Un­like what politi­cians or­di­nar­ily do, we will be putting our money where our mouth is,” said Mr Fearne in re­la­tion to the obli­ga­tion that, when the govern­ment does not pro­vide health treat­ment to a pa­tient in the stip­u­lated amount of time, according to the char­ter, that pa­tient has a right to seek treat­ment at a pri­vate hospi­tal. The govern­ment is then obliged to cover all the costs and ex­penses in­curred.

The char­ter stip­u­lates the max­i­mum amount of time one can wait for treat­ment at the Ac­ci­dent and Emer­gency ward.

“All in all, the char­ter will pro­vide a mech­a­nism whereby it be­comes more ac­count­able on the prom­ises it is mak­ing,” he said.

“The next step, which will also be re­leased from the pa­tient’s char­ter, is a big­ger em­pha­sis on pre­ven­ta­tive care so that all cit­i­zens of Malta and Gozo have a bet­ter qual­ity of life,” he con­tin­ued.

He said that while we ex­cel in treat­ing ill­nesses pre­ven­ta­tive care is still lag­ging be­hind.

In the in­tro­duc­tion to the doc­u­ment, it states that: “the char­ter is based on the prin­ci­ples for the foun­da­tion for a safe, eq­ui­table, health­care ser­vice de­liv­ery. Th­ese prin­ci­ples have been es­tab­lished fol­low­ing a thor­ough re­view of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional patent’s char­ters and other sim­i­lar in­stru­ments. The rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties rep­re­sent a com­mit­ment or def­i­ni­tion of what should be ex­pected by the users and the health­care providers within the pub­lic health ser­vice. They are de­signed to pro­mote care which is per­son­alised, dis­ease pre­ven­ta­tive and par­tic­i­pa­tory, as stated in the Health Act.”

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