The so-called Pa­tient Char­ter – an­other dis­trac­tion

Labour’s strat­egy is now clear to ev­ery­one. Joseph Mus­cat and his cronies praise good gov­er­nance and trans­parency while un­der­min­ing both.

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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

25 Novem­ber 1963

They have en­tered deals which have im­por­tant de­tails hid­den from pub­lic view – but their un­der­handed schemes have lots of glit­tery window dressing. When some of the sus­pect de­tails are dis­cov­ered, Labour cre­ates a di­ver­sion and points to the window dressing, which makes the deal sound like the best one ever. Health is a clas­sic ex­am­ple. Health min­is­ter Chris Fearne has been try­ing hard to de­pict him­self as the clean min­is­ter who in­her­ited a shady deal on the pri­vati­sa­tion of three hos­pi­tals. Un­for­tu­nately for him, the Op­po­si­tion and the me­dia sim­ply won’t let go.

Things got more un­com­fort­able for Fearne when he found out that ex­pired medicine had been ad­min­is­tered to three pa­tients in the ITU – un­der his min­is­te­rial watch. To come clean, he is­sued a press re­lease, stat­ing that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was un­der way. Un­for­tu­nately, yet again, this didn’t work ei­ther. Once more, the Op­po­si­tion and the me­dia had a field day.

Fearne needed some­thing to de­vi­ate at­ten­tion. A rea­son to make him look good and clean. So he first tried to say that ad­min­is­ter­ing ex­pired medicines was “nor­mal” pro­ce­dure. But since Fearne him­self had in­sti­tuted an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the “nor­mal­ity” of ad­min­is­ter­ing ex­pired medicine to ITU pa­tients didn’t per­suade any­one.

Then Labour strate­gists dug (not so deep) into their bag of tricks. They re­mem­bered the Pa­tient Char­ter. A doc­u­ment which was launched for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion ear­lier this year and which was not part of the gov­ern­ment’s plans for im­ple­men­ta­tion, ei­ther this year or next.

In fact, it wasn’t even men­tioned in the Bud­get doc­u­ments. So much so, I crit­i­cised its ab­sence in Par­lia­ment a few weeks ago.

It must also be said that when Fearne launched the doc­u­ment for dis­cus­sion I had praised both the con­cept and most of the obli­ga­tions and rights listed in the Char­ter. But I had also stated then, and I re­it­er­ate it now, that since this Char­ter is not sup­ported by law, then it has no bite.

In other words, this Pa­tient Char­ter is NOT legally bind­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, this de­tail has not been picked up yet by the me­dia.

This sim­ply means that if, for ex­am­ple, on page 17, para­graph 5 of the Pa­tient Char­ter, un­der the head­ing ‘Safety’, we find that one has the re­spon­si­bil­ity “Not to take any med­i­ca­tion that is ex­pired …”, how does this trans­late it­self legally when the ex­pired medicine is given to an ITU pa­tient un­know­ingly?

And what of the right “to ac­cess health ser­vices and treat­ments that meet safety stan­dards”?

It is very telling that the last sec­tion of the Pa­tient Char­ter (‘Com­ments and Com­plaints’) sim­ply en­cour­ages pa­tients and their “sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers or car­ers” to “pro­vide feed­back, com­ments and raise con­cerns.”

Does Fearne ex­pect us to take him se­ri­ously?

Is the min­is­ter telling us that we have rights, which have been bro­ken, but we ac­tu­ally have no way of re­dress­ing them?

Oh yes, hold on … the doc­u­ment states that we can “pro­vide both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive feed­back … through the ap­pro­pri­ate chan­nels.”

Who do you think you’re fool­ing min­is­ter?

Pa­tients have been given ex­pired medicine with­out their con­sent or that of their sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers or of their car­ers… but these peo­ple are ex­pected to give “feed­back” through un­spec­i­fied “chan­nels.”

A Char­ter ei­ther grants rights that are en­force­able – or it is not a real char­ter at all.

Chris Fearne’s Pa­tient Char­ter is a scam by a gov­ern­ment that spe­cialises in scams. It is pure lip ser­vice which will cre­ate even more frus­tra­tion in ser­vice users and their fam­i­lies. It is glit­tery window-dressing.

It is a dis­trac­tion for the dodgy hos­pi­tal con­tracts with Vi­tals Global Health­care and the grave scan­dal about the ex­pired medicines in our hos­pi­tals.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent Fri­day 25 Novem­ber 2016

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