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For Gozitan patients treated in Malta, home is a long way away

New NGO wants accommodation for medical patients forced to cross islands

The National Patients’ Organisation is advocating for those who must travel to Malta for treatment. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

The National Patients’ Organisation is advocating for those who must travel to Malta for treatment. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Accommodation should be provided to Gozitan patients receiving treatment in Malta and also to the relatives of those on their deathbeds, a recently established NGO is urging.

The National Patients’ Organisation has written to the Finance Ministry about the plight of patients who travel to Malta for treatment, including chemotherapy, hoping its proposal will be included in next year’s budget.

The NPO was set up by a cancer survivor, a fibromyalgia sufferer and two with chronic pain, who came together to set up a group that aims at “advocacy with patients, not for them”.

Ahead of the 2019 budget, the organisation is flagging “great” physical, moral and financial hardship endured for years by patients who have to travel to Malta for various health appointments.

They have to rent hotel rooms or stay with relatives

The ordeal was illustrated by patients during a recent conference in Gozo, among them George Gauci, diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. He suggested some form of priority boarding for cancer patients who have to cross over to Malta early in the morning.

Commending the investment in Dar Bjorn for those with degenerative diseases and for those receiving treatment abroad, he appealed for support for Gozo patients and their relatives who needed accommodation in Malta. Currently, patients have to rent hotel rooms, find accommodation with relatives or drive themselves to and from appointments, piling on the stress.

Another patient, Rosabelle Pavia, underlined the fact that people found it hard to use the transport provided by the hospital. Irrespective of their appointments’ allocated time, all patients had to leave early, and the means of transport was uncomfortable.

She pointed out that transporting terminally ill patients along with people suffering some kind of infection was “not desirable at all”.

The NPO has already expressed its concerns to the authorities about the lack of facilities to accommodate patients or their immediate relatives in Malta.

“Some patients are on their deathbed, and families who are lucky enough to find accommodation with other relatives sometimes feel they are causing inconvenience to their hosts,” president Irene Schembri said in the NPO’s letter to the Finance Ministry.

“We also learned that after particular treatments, some patients needed to rest.

“But as things stand, these patients have nowhere to go and their only option is to start the long journey back to Gozo.”

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