Malta fell 10 places on the Euro Health Consumer Index, but Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health Chris Fearne has blamed this on the fact that the island still does not offer abortion services.
The EHCI started in 2005 and the European Commission has praised it for being the most accurate and reliable comparison of public health among European countries. The scoring criteria was tightened this year to make it more challenging for countries.
Malta placed 27th out of 35 countries with 631 points, which classified it as a ‘red’ country in the report
Those countries that scored less than 650 points were marked as ‘red’ by the report, which means they had a downward trend in the provision of their public services. The report states that this downward trend cannot be interpreted in the way that their healthcare systems have become worse over the time studied – only that they have developed less positively than the European average.
The ECHI report states that there is decent accessibility in Malta, but the country didn’t score too well on treatment results. Also, it pointed out that there seem to be gaps in the public subsidy system of Maltese healthcare.
It also mentioned that this was particularly prominent for drug subsidies, stating Malta has little data on drug use.
European healthcare is steadily improving: infant mortality and survival rates of heart disease, stroke and cancer are all moving in the right direction. Patient choice and involvement are also developing.
“This survey places a lot of emphasis on abortion services which Malta does not have, and therefore we were placed further down”
TVM reached out to Minister of Health Chris Fearne for his comments on the report. “We went back ten places since we do not offer the termination of pregnancies,” he said. “We have more children with serious medical problems… and that puts us behind.”
Regarding abortion, the scoring of this indicator is somewhat complex
The scores are based on the principle that free, legally defined abortion should be available for women in any country. The report raises alarm that Malta, along with Cyprus and Poland, have legal bans on abortion. It mentions that these bans “do not prevent abortions, but rather turn them into a major health risk, forcing women to go abroad or having an abortion under obscure, insecure conditions.”
For this reason, Malta was given a unique ‘purple score’ (of 0 points) when it came to weighing the abortion measure.
The report shows that Malta was given a ‘red’ rating for concern over suicide rates, cigarette sales per capita, high percentages of caesarean section births, percentages of hospital-acquired strains being resistant and for no online accessibility to hospital services.
Malta was given a positive ‘green’ score when it came to cancer treatment accessibility, kidney transplants, elderly care, low rates of binge drinking and low rates of traffic accidents.
The EHCI analyses national healthcare on 46 indicators, looking into areas such as Patient Rights and Information, Access to Care, Treatment Outcomes, Range and Reach of Services, Prevention and use of Pharmaceuticals. This year two new indicators were introduced, which reflect access to psychiatric care for children and suicide rates.