Patient’s charter launched
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.”