Friday, July 15, 2005

Health Minister lashes back at Opposition

Dialysis row

Gibraltar’s Minister for Health Ernest Britto yesterday lashed back at the GSLP/Liberal Opposition and accused them of going to any extent to try and blacken the image of new St Bernard’s Hospital and its services.

Reacting to the latest public statement by the GSLP Opposition which criticised the Government for the arrangements being made by the Gibraltar Health Authority (GHA) to transport dialysis patients to and from hospital, they said this was not only inaccurate but “clearly demonstrates the extent to which the Opposition’s spokesperson on Health, Mari Montegriffo, will go to try to deflect attention from the inauguration of dialysis in Gibraltar this week.”

The Health Ministry says that in the past, anyone needing to be dialysed has been forced to travel to Spain two or three times a week to obtain this service.

“This Government is proud to have made the investment in modern, state of the art dialysis equipment and for having installed it in modern air-conditioned facilities, in the New Hospital.

The new Dialysis Unit has attracted praise and compliments, not only from the patients and their families, but also from everyone who has seen it.

When the GSLP were in Government they made no attempt to provide this service in Gibraltar. For the Opposition’s Spokesperson to criticise it now, without even bothering to check the accuracy of the criticisms she has made, is the height of political dishonesty and hypocrisy,” said a Ministry statement.

The Opposition’s comments centre on attempting to criticise the Government for what they see as “an attempt to save money” in not offering transport to and from hospital to dialysis patients. This criticism, says the Health Minister, is incorrect. “All the dialysis patients who were being transported to the hospital in La Linea for dialysis will continue to be transported to and from St. Bernard’s Hospital when they require to be dialysed. The statement made by the Minister for Health, Ernest Britto, in the House of Assembly, which the Opposition has criticised, made it clear that the circumstances of each patient would be assessed individually to decide whether transport will be provided. This has been done in the case of all existing patients and the decision was made by GHA to continue to provide transport,” he said.

The Ministry statement said that “for the avoidance of doubt”, the Government makes it clear that the statement made by Health Minister, Ernest Britto, is Government policy and therefore any new patients who are diagnosed as needing dialysis in the future will assessed on an individual basis and a decision made by GHA whether to provide transport for such a patient. This decision will be made taking the medical and all other circumstances of the patient’s case into account, they said.

“The Opposition is obviously not aware, and appears not to have bothered to check the facts, that a patient needing dialysis is not necessarily unable to leave home or to walk about freely. In such circumstances, especially if such a patient were to live within walking distance of the hospital, for example, in Varyl Begg Estate or Harbour Views, it would be ludicrous to expect the GHA to provide transport. Such a decision is a sensible and efficient way of managing GHA’s resources in the interests of all persons using the health service and not be a ‘money saving measure’ as claimed by the Opposition”, they said.

Instead of attempting to criticise the noteworthy achievement of the Government to inaugurate dialysis in Gibraltar by petty and inaccurate criticisms, the Opposition should have the political honesty to welcome and praise this new service by GHA.


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