Top primary health care
I have always stressed the importance of a sound health care system and the fact that it constitutes the pillar of a society that aims to progress and advance both socially and economically. It is therefore essential that our primary health care services are accessible to everyone at all times.
Primary health care, which essentially is that sort of care provided outside hospital, is the first service that patients make use of when in need of medical assistance. General practitioners, pharmacists, dentists and other health care providers all form part of this important chain that serves and tends to the needs of the community. An optimal primary health care system will guarantee less need to go to hospital, lower mortality rates and a generally healthier population. Besides providing essential services, the primary health care system should also be focused on prevention and on advocating a healthier lifestyle from a young age. This approach will lead to communities taking more interest in their health outcomes.
The establishment of the primary health care department was a very important step, with prevention and awareness at the top of its agenda. We have made important steps where prevention is concerned, with screening and vaccinations available free of charge to all. One can rightly say that this system, though far from perfect, is at par with those in place in the most advanced countries in Europe and elsewhere.
With the introduction of schemes such as the Pharmacy of Your Choice, the patient is no longer a mere statistic. This decentralisation has helped patients, especially elderly people, to maintain a relationship with their pharmacist who, in turn, will be able to give more individual attention to his clients, having known their medical history for a long time.
This system is also important for another reason: keeping our elderly within our community as long as it is physically possible for them. We have in the past heard of many cases where elderly people, perfectly capable of living on their own, had to be moved into homes because they needed medication or therapy of some sort that was not available in their village or town. This problem is being addressed but we still have much more work to do to ensure that no one is excluded from the community due to lack of primary health care.
It is also important to have good coordination between our primary, secondary and tertiary health care systems. A good primary system will automatically help to prioritise cases that need secondary health care and, thus, is an essential tool in reducing waiting lists and congestions.
The general practitioners’ roles in this respect ought to be granted more importance because they would know the history of the patient best.
This implies full access to the medical records of a patient. It is very important for the pharmacist and the GP to be able to access the medical records of a person if we want to guarantee the best possible treatment.
With the introduction of myhealth and the e-ID some progress has been made. Yet, there is need to improve accessibility to these services, as applications for an e-ID currently need to be made at Evans building in Valletta. This could be improved by making e-IDs available from local council offices. Hopefully, the introduction of the new identity cards that are equipped with a chip will allow GPs and health care providers to have easier access to these records.
Health care in general is a field that is constantly evolving. We should, therefore, be proactive in promoting new ideas that will help the patients have easier access to the services they require while consolidating the systems that have been tried and tested and that are already in place.
As members of the European Union, we should also make the most of the research and innovations that our counterparts can offer us. We need to expand more in the field of cooperation and in cross-border medical treatments that would ultimately give our citizens better access to the kind of medical services they need.
Mr Casa is a Nationalist member of the European Parliament.