Just a few hours away from the unveiling of the Government’s financial plan for 2024, everyone’s spotlight is fixed on what lies ahead.
Considering that healthcare has a direct impact on our overall well-being and acts as a catalyst for social and economic progress, The Journal had a conversation with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health, Chris Fearne to gain insight into what’s in store for the coming year.
Here are four notable developments that we can expect to see in 2024.
MORE NURSES, HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS
We can expect to see more nurses being employed, since there’s a growing demand for healthcare professionals, not only in Malta but worldwide. This demand is driven by the expanding healthcare sector and a rising population.
Graduates from universities and MCAST are already finding job opportunities readily available. This will be further supplemented by efforts to attract healthcare workers from overseas. Malta’s global reputation as an appealing destination continues to draw young individuals into the healthcare profession.
A NEW MINI-HOSPITAL IN PAOLA
2024 will be marked by the opening of the Ċensu Moran Health Centre in Paola. The Deputy Prime Minister confirmed that the construction phase is complete, the parking facilities are operational, and equipment installation is underway.
Services are expected to start next year, starting with a gradual transition of current services and staff from the village’s existing health centre to the new one.
The reintroduction of dental clinics is an important point to mention, since such services were all relocated to Mater Dei years ago under a Nationalist administration. This decision resulted in an overwhelmed system and long waiting lists. Nowadays, dental services are being offered in Gozo and at the St Vincent De Paul Residence, and the plan is to have multiple dental clinics in this new health centre in Paola.
Additionally, the Ċensu Moran Health Centre will have an outpatient clinic, enabling specialists to serve patients in the area. The final phases that will eventually make the Centre fully operational will be operating theatres and the opening of an emergency department, equipping Southern Malta with a comprehensive range of hospital services.
A FIRST IN GOZO: MRI SERVICES
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic field and computer-generated radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues in the human body. It has become frequently used, since it can diagnose a wide range of medical conditions. Yet, so far, it is not available in Gozo. This is set to change, since a new MRI service will be launched at the Gozo General Hospital.
There are also plans to enhance chemotherapy services in Malta’s sister island. Several years ago, chemotherapy was provided with a limited capacity in Gozo. However, the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed that 2024 should see enhancing laboratory facilities that enable the preparation and administration of chemotherapy medication in Gozo.
Progress is being made on advanced MRI technology. Malta is set to have its MR Linac machine, which combines two technologies — an MRI scanner and a linear accelerator — to precisely locate tumours, tailor the shape of X-ray beams in real time, and accurately deliver doses of radiation, even to moving tumours.
This machine is almost ready to operate. It is located next to the Sir Anthony Mamo oncology centre and safety measures are currently being tested. These include a specially designed bunker to ensure that no radiation is emitted where and when it shouldn’t.
In addition to this, cancer treatment will be extended to patients’ homes, and personalised therapy for breast cancer patients will be offered.
The abovementioned changes that we can expect to see in the healthcare sector do not exclude the constant progress in the Primary Health Care sector. In fact, a new health centre in Ħal Qormi is expected to be inaugurated, aiming to provide accessible healthcare services to all.
A major budget measure implemented during 2023 was the modernisation of the Birkirkara Health Centre, which covers the localities of Balzan, Iklin, and Lija with an overall population of circa 35,000. So far, 22 Community Clinics have been newly established or modernised.
Of course, additional details will be provided during the Budget announcement tonight.
Main photo credit: Foundation for Medical Services