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What’s primary about primary healthcare? - Chris Fearne

The Labour Party can legitimately be called the party of primary health care. It should not be surprising. After all, we were the party that gave birth to the welfare state in Malta almost five decades ago. Consequently, neither should it be surprising that when in government we have done our utmost to open more health centres to bring medical care closer to the people. Indeed, of the nine such centres in existence, six were opened under Labour’s watch. In close to a quarter of a century in government, the Nationalist Party only opened the doors to three.

For us, it is not only a question of the number of centres but, of equal importance, also one of the range of services provided in them. And we have worked tirelessly to widen and improve them.

Recently, we introduced an anticoagulant clinic, digital X-Rays, a plaster room, minor operations performed at the Mosta centre and we have, once again, dispatched a dedicated ambulance to Paola.

We are not done yet. We will continue to execute our improvement plans with structural works on the Gżira centre, reaching the roll-out stage soon. Our vision also includes turning the Paola centre into a regional health hub for the southern part of the country.

The Kirkop health centre will service 28,000 people in Ħal Far, Ħal Farruġ, Kirkop, Safi, Luqa, Mqabba, Qrendi and Żurrieq

In the context of this Labour legacy, I am therefore very proud to announce we are inaugurating the 10th health centre, in Kirkop, welcoming the first patient next Monday. With an investment of €1 million and piloted from ground zero to completion by the Foundation of Medical Services, under the direction of its CEO, Carmen Ciantar, this three-storey – and over 500-square-metre – centre is a state-of-the-art primary medical facility. It is worth noting it is the first to open its doors in the region in three decades and the first one to do so in the country in two decades.

The Kirkop health centre will service 28,000 people living in Ħal Far, Ħal Farruġ, Kirkop, Safi, Luqa, Mqabba, Qrendi and Żurrieq. Till now, these people would have had to travel all the way to the Floriana centre to get care. Now, they will no longer have to. An intended positive consequence is that the Floriana centre workload would thereby be reduced, allowing it to concentrate more serenely on its catchment of about 26,000 people.

Allow me to walk readers through the doors of the Kirkop centre to impart a sense of the proportion and quality of its services. No fewer than 17 doctors will be seeing patients and providing a range of medical facilities that is almost too long to name – from mental health to baby care to immunisation, from prescriptions to care for diabetics, from speech pathologies therapy to eye care to electro-cardiograms and more, much more.

With some smart forward-thinking, even before opening its doors, the Kirkop centre is already making a connection with the communities it will service.

Some of the people from its catchment areas who had appointments in Floriana are being contacted and shifted to their own centre much closer to home. We are also sending an information leaflet to all households in these communities.

The provision of public health services is changing at a rapid pace and we will always strive to be at the forefront of bringing new technologies and procedures to the people.

Nevertheless, certain principles remain unchanged. And, for us, the bringing of primary health and medical care as close to our communities as possible is one of them.

Chris Fearne is Deputy Prime Minister.

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