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12/07/2007

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- The Health Care System in Malta
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Contents
Introduction

The Maltese Government provides a comprehensive health service to all Maltese residents that is entirely free at the point of delivery. This health service is funded from general taxation. All residents have access to preventive, investigative, curative and rehabilitative services in Government Health Centres and Hospitals. Persons with a low income are 'means tested' by the Department of Social Security. If they qualify for assistance, they receive a card which entitles them to free pharmaceuticals. Moreover, a person who suffers from one or more of a specified list of chronic diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis) is also entitled to receive free treatment for his /her ailment, irrespective of financial means.

Private health services exist alongside the Government service.


Organisation of the Government health service

The Minister for Health, Hon. Dr. Louis Deguara, is overall responsible for the health services.

The Permanent Secretary is the administrative head within the Ministry. He is a public officer and is accountable to the Prime Minister. He has the responsibility to support the general policies and priorities of the Government and to operate within the context of management practices and procedures established for the government as a whole. He also has the duty to provide support and advice to the Minister, to provide leadership, to manage financial and human resources effectively and efficiently, to contribute to the collective management of Government and to ascertain coordination of policies between all Departments falling within the responsibilities of the Ministry.  The Permanent Secretary is also directly responsible for the Department of Corporate Services as well as the Government Pharmaceutical Services

The Director General Health (DGH) manages the Health Division supported by a management team of Directors responsible for specific Departments. The DGH is responsible to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health.  The Director General Health is directly accountable to the Minister for all matters relating to Health.  The Office of the Director General has within it the following offices: , , International Health and Regulatory Affairs.

There are nine Departments in the Health Division, each with a Director: Finance & Administration, Health Information, Health Policy and Planning, Health Promotion, Human Resources, Institutional Health, Primary Health Care, Public Health and Nursing Services.

(Sources: Office of the Permanent Secretary and Office of the Director General)


Health promotion

National health promotion activities (including health education in the traditional sense) are coordinated by the Department of Health Promotion. This encompasses the Health Promotion Unit and the Nutrition Unit. Both Units liaise closely with the Department of Education and with the mass media.

Several preventive programmes are run on a national scale, such as the free immunisation programme, which covers a wide range of illnesses (including diphtheria, polio, tetanus, pertussis, HiB, measles, mumps, rubella and tuberculosis).

Health Centres provide extensive preventive services, such as Well Baby clinics, Well Woman clinics, routine blood pressure and cholesterol check-ups, smoking cessation clinics, screening for diabetes, and ophthalmological check-ups.

There are also specialised preventive activities that are hospital-based (such as thyroid function screening for neonates).


Primary health care

The Government delivers primary health care mainly through eight Health Centres that offer a full range of preventive, curative and rehabilitative services. The general practitioner and nursing services are supplemented by various specialised services, that include antenatal and postnatal clinics, Well Baby clinics, Gynae clinics, diabetes clinics, ophthalmic clinics, psychiatric clinics, podology (Podiatric) clinics, Physiotherapy, and Speech therapy and Language Pathology clinic. Community nursing and midwifery services are provided by the Malta Memorial District Nursing Association (MMDNA) on a contract basis.

The Government's Health Centre system works side by side with a thriving private sector, and many residents opt for the services of private general practitioners and specialists who work in the primary care setting.


Secondary and tertiary care

Secondary care and tertiary care are provided from a number of public hospitals, the principal one being St Luke's Hospital, which has around 850 beds. St Luke's provides a full range of secondary and tertiary medical services, including transplant surgery and open heart surgery. The average length of stay in a general medical ward at St Luke's is 6 days, while in a general surgical ward it is 5 days.

Another 58 beds are available at Sir Paul Boffa Hospital, which has an oncology and dermatology unit, and 259 short / long stay beds are available at Gozo General Hospital. At Mount Carmel Hospital there are 563 psychiatric beds (short / long stay), while at Zammit Clapp Hospital there are 60 specialised geriatric beds.

The Government has embarked on the building of a new 850-bed teaching hospital next to the University that will succeed St Luke's Hospital in the provision of acute secondary and tertiary services.

There are three private hospitals, St Philip's Hospital, with a capacity of 75 beds, in Santa Venera, Capua Palace Hospital, with 80 beds, in Sliema and  St James Hospital with 13 beds in Zabbar. St Mark's Clinic with a capacity of 5 beds in Msida also offer private hospital services.


 
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