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NEWS | Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Dalli to improve polyclinics’ service

David Darmanin

Newly appointed Social Policy Minister John Dalli yesterday claimed that the health system in Malta may be made to operate in a financially sustainable manner by upping the service of the same polyclinics he was critical of when he served as Finance Minister in 2003.
Such improvements, according to Dalli, will be aimed at easing up the workload on Mater Dei, and therefore limit unneeded health service expenditure.
This approach contrasts starkly with his budget speech of 2004 – his first and last as Finance Minister for the incoming Nationalist administration after the 2003 election – when Dalli was met with harsh criticism for cutting short the overnight and Sunday service at polyclinics, describing the facilities as places where insomniac elderly people go for coffee.
Flanked by Joe Cassar, parliamentary secretary for health and Mario Galea, parliamentary secretary for care of the elderly, yesterday Dalli was guided through the wards and corridors of Mater Dei by hospital superintendent Frank Bartolo.
Turning to the press at the end of the tour, Dalli said: “Mater Dei hospital is one of the principle matters that need to be looked after by the Ministry. This is why we came here today, to speak to the staff – be they involved in the direct operation or members of administration.
“We will also hold talks with the unions, not to negotiate anything in particular, but to find a way to get things organised and implement better practices. We are committed to provide happiness to patients – this is our main objective, and we will do so by continuing to be of service to the Maltese people and patients by means of the best available technology.”
Asked by MaltaToday to explain how his Ministry plans to keep all health services offered gratis while operating in a financially sustainable manner, Dalli reiterated the government’s intentions to keep the health service in Malta offered free of charge. “We will make the health sector operate in a sustainable manner by getting it organised and by eliminating unnecessary waste of money. A lot of work done at Mater Dei can be offered within local communities, cutting down on unnecessary costs incurred at hospital. But for this to happen we will need everybody to co-operate.”
During the hour-long tour, a foreign doctor pulled Joe Cassar aside, asking him for five minutes to “discuss a serious matter”, while the contingency also bumped into, by coincidence, Valletta’s Labour councillor Valerie Borg – who works at Mater Dei – and PN apologist Austin Sammut, who emerged out of a patient’s partition with a smile, then stepping back as Dalli walked off.


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