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03 March 2010
Strengthening primary healthcare

According to the consultation document presented by the government on primary healthcare reform, which is being debated, private family doctors will now start being exclusively responsible for the prescription of free medicines – a task which was previously  also carried out at the government health centres and clinics (bereg) .

In Malta , there are around 80,000 holders of the ‘yellow’ card which entitles them for  free medicines and only around 150 GP’s working full time in Malta. Simple mathematics  shows  that there will be an additional eight prescriptions (often of multiple medicines) every  morning  therefore eight  more people to wait after in the waiting rooms of private doctors. This will make matters more tedious for patients visiting the family doctor for other medical problems.  

Some commentators have proposed IT technology as the fast solution to the problem but this is unlikely to reduce  the  prolongation of  waiting room  times. Government has so far not promised direct funding on the investments to be made by family doctors for their IT  requirements (including laptops and connection with hospitals) and unless this is not fully funded by the state then the doctor will have no option but to pass on the investment costs onto the patients by raising fees , most of whom will pay them out of their own pockets or through their private insurance – unless the main points outlined in the health reform document change completely!

Additionally, the new method (when the system is in place) for the renewal of prescriptions should not involve actually having to print the prescription for chronic diseases as this is (as any owner of a personal computer and printer knows) even more time consuming than actually writing them out manually.

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