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Bold decisions in healthcare – Now or never, says the Chamber

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Bold decisions in healthcare - Now or Never, says the Malta ChamberToday the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry held a national conference to discuss the way forward for an efficient, fair and sustainable healthcare system.

The event was addressed by the Chamber President, the Health Minister, the Shadow Minister, the Chairperson of Alternattiva Demokratika, the Bishop of Gozo, and a representative of three Chamber Sections related to healthcare.

As a responsible organisation, the Malta Chamber said it felt obliged to discuss its concerns and offer tangible solutions to the healthcare situation in the country. Last May, the European Commission advised Malta to “pursue healthcare reforms to increase the cost-effectiveness of the sector, in particular by strengthening public primary care provision.” It also recommended efficiency improvements and reductions in the length of public procurement procedures. Similarly, in its 2012 Country Report, the IMF said it was crucial for Malta “to build broad public consensus for health care reform aimed at increasing the adequacy and sustainability of the current schemes.”

The Chamber stated that, “healthcare reform has been unnecessarily delayed by political factors. Consequently, the country is left with a system which is inadequate, unaffordable, and does not reach its objectives.”

It added that “the unsustainability issue is not merely a concern for future generations. It is already with us today because due to financial constraints, wastage and the fact that it entitles people to trivial items/services, it is not possible to cater for serious life-saving medication. As a result, in the hour of need, patients, irrespective of their social background are forced to resort to charity or other drastic measures to retain their chance to live.”

“The discussion at today’s conference was proactive and constructive.” The Chamber said that its recommendations were “faithful to the solemn promise made ahead of the last election for medicines and healthcare services to continue to be free. Nevertheless, even within these tight parameters, the Chamber believes there is ample room for improvement.”

The suggested scheme, the Chamber said, “aims to improve procurement and by-pass public sector inefficiencies in ordering, stocking and distributing medicine. All this whilst esuring that medicine remains free and that the rights and welfare, especially of the most vulnerable, are safeguarded.”

The Chamber’s proposals “were based on the principle of “prevention is better than cure” as also applied to the national resources dedicated to healthcare – in particular Primary and Secondary healthcare.

“If resources “re freed to enable a widening of the medicine formulary and to afford the purchasing of important and advanced drugs, people will be healthier and their need to seek urgent attention at Mater Dei and Health Centres will be reduced. More efficacious medicines will result in shorter hospital stays or reduce the need for hospitalisation.”

The Chamber pointed out that in order to free up the necessary resources, there must be political consensus on fundamental issues. “Agreement is necessary on taking bold steps to eliminate waste as well as to remove free entitlement to trivial items/services. In both cases, of course, due attention is to be given to uphold the interests of society as a whole. It is evident that saving our healthcare system requires a holistic approach and political maturity.”

The Chamber said it was “encouraged by the feedback received on its – rather radical – proposals. It is also encouraged by the manner in which the political parties are approaching the situation.”

The Chamber went on to say that it “will continue to work towards facilitating a process of political consensus to pave the way for the country to be in a position to offer – and afford – a healthcare system that our people and future generations so rightly deserve.”

The Malta Chamber is proposing a reimbursement system that caters for two categories of patients (a) those who are entitled to free medicines but are in a position to pay for them upon collection and receive a refund from the State; (b) those who are entitled to free medicines and are not in a financial position to pay for them upon collection.

“In the latter case, the patient continues to collect free medicine though the community pharmacy of choice. Medicines are collected upon presentation of a “My Health Card and PIN” as proposed in the White Paper which, in this case, would be pre-credited with the medicines for which the patient is entitled.”

“Deductions will be made upon each medicine dispensed to create the desired psychological effect for patients not to collect medicines which they do not need,” the Chamber said.

“The E-Card roll out needs to involve family doctors and consultants to ensure that all patients are given a Card irrespective of which category they fall under. Simultaneously, due attention must be given to Primary Healthcare for this to serve as a platform for related systems such as the electronic prescription,” The Malta Chamber of Commerce concluded.

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