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‘We’ll strengthen cancer fight’

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi peeks into the €3 million CT and PET scanning facility at Mater Dei Hospital. Photo: Jason Borg

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi peeks into the €3 million CT and PET scanning facility at Mater Dei Hospital. Photo: Jason Borg

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi yesterday inaugurated a €3 million CT and PET scanning facility at Mater Dei Hospital that will boost efforts to diagnose cancer.

This is another step in the leap of quality in healthcare we have been talking about

He toured the hospital after pledging to keep up the fight against cancer by building on the momentum of the past five years.

The hybrid scanner was mostly financed by the Swiss Government as part of a cooperation programme between both countries.

“This is another step in the leap of quality in healthcare we have been talking about. Mater Dei Hospital opened five years ago but things did not stop there,” said Dr Gonzi, thanking Swiss Ambassador Bernardino Regazzoni for his country’s investment.

Such investments, he added, had to be coupled with personnel training and he again thanked the Swiss Government for training doctors who would now be in a position to train others locally.

Dr Gonzi said the equipment would help in cancer diagnosis, employing the latest technology to provide the best results.

Earlier, during a press conference at the PN headquarters in Pietà, Dr Gonzi outlined the party’s plans to keep fighting cancer.

He said the National Screening Centre had already widened its remit from breast cancer to include colon cancer. In the next legislature, this would be extended to cervix screening and more age groups.

The centre had so far screened 15,000 women and saved more than 160 lives by tracing cancer early.

Reiterating his strong belief that Malta could afford free healthcare if it continued to set the right priorities and maintain sound finances, Dr Gonzi said the Government had a “duty” to keep free healthcare sustainable.

He again slammed Labour leader Joseph Muscat for not retracting his claim that the Delimara power station was a ‘cancer factory’.

Malta had the second lowest cancer incidence rate and the seventh lowest cancer mortality rate, Dr Gonzi noted.

He spoke about increasing services to cancer patients at Gozo Hospital, saying he was proud of what had been achieved so far.

Asked about criticism by Stephen Brincat, who had resigned from head of Mater Dei’s oncology department complaining that the Government repeatedly ignored his advice, Dr Gonzi said Gozo patients were being treated without having to cross to Malta.

Dr Gonzi acknowledged maintaining free healthcare was always a “challenge” when asked about ex-Health Minister Louis Deguara’s warning that health-related electoral pledges by both parties were a “recipe for bankruptcy”.

“But if we managed to keep healthcare free for everyone in the past five years, when we had so many big difficulties, there is nothing to stop us from continuing to do so in the future, as long as we make the right choices.

“The point is this: where should we invest? In a power station we don’t need or in the hospital? I prefer investing in the hospital.”

Dr Gonzi also inaugurated a Department of Surgery at the Gozo General Hospital yesterday afternoon. It was co-funded by the EU as part of a €3.8 million investment, which also includes a new radiology department that has a digital link to Mater Dei.

He also announced plans for a child development centre adjacent to the Gozo hospital.

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