A substantial cut in medical services waiting time has been registered over the past years, with the most notable difference seen in ultrasound appointments, were the average waiting time has been cut by almost 16 months, to just 91 days. Another remarkable cut was registered in MRI appointments. Whereas back in 2012, patients had to wait almost 18 months for an appointment, waiting time has now been reduced to 5 months.
An exercise carried out by TheJournal.mt has shown noteworthy reductions in waiting time across the public health sector.
For a total knee replacement, patients were used to wait an average of 600 days. Today, waiting time has been cut by half and operations are carried out within 284 days. A similar scenario for CT scans, where patients now wait 4 months instead of well over a year.
€350 million increase in public health spending
These success stories are the direct result of intensive investment, increased resources and better management of public health. In fact, compared to 2012, in 2019 Malta spent 86% more on public health. An increase of almost €350 million, or an incremental €50 million every year. In percentage terms, the increase in health spending in Malta was the largest increase across the European Union. Across the latter, over the same time, public health spending has increased by only 22%. Malta has increased its investment in public health by four times the European average.
The €350 million increase in public health spending over seven years contrasts sharply with the previous seven years until 2012, where investment increased by €85 million. This means that public health outlays have been boosted by four times more than under the previous administration.
Increase in health workers
Today there are around 11,800 full-time workers in the public health sector. This marks an increase of 2,000 workers over seven years. Besides the public sector, Government’s policies have supported the growth of the private health sector, such that now there are nearly 20,400 full-time health workers and 3,600 part-timers. Back in 2013, there were just 12,800 full-timers and nearly 3,000 part-timers. This means that the health sector has nearly doubled.
Higher complement was supported by higher wages for health workers. In fact, a staff nurse with a diploma has seen an increase of almost €4,100 in the basic wage. This, together with increases in allowances, working conditions and leave entitlement, resulting in a higher purchasing power.
The handling of two pandemics
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought a discernible sense of fear in Malta. Even among the medical community, concern was unprecedented, as high population density, the prevalence of existing conditions such as asthma and diabetes, and the relative ageing of the Maltese were seen as factors that could lead to the pandemic striking our nation very hard.
Moreover, most medical experts were worried that the fiasco that had characterised the 2009 swine (H1N1) flu pandemic would be repeated. Back then, the Maltese health sector, suffering the effects of austerity politics adopted at the time, was starved of resources. The commercial agreement signed by government had made fell through, with the supplier pushing delivery to 2011. For months, it appeared that Malta would have no vaccines. Malta and Bulgaria were in the same boat – hoping against hope. It fell upon the Dutch Government to provide Malta some of its surplus supply of vaccines, just enough to vaccinate 75% of our population and achieve herd immunity. It took until January 2010 for those most at risk to be vaccinated, while the rest of the population had to wait until much later that year. The Maltese population was being vaccinated around the time when the WHO announced that the pandemic was ending.
By contrast, this time round Malta was not the partner of Bulgaria, at the end of the list, but at the top – with surplus vaccines for booster shots, and practising solidarity with much larger neighbours, sending medical supplies to Italy and vaccines to Libya.
A healthy health sector has been working wonders for our nation’s health.