A Maltese family have been left in turmoil after one of their family members was sent to the UK for treatment, only to catch COVID-19 and die while overseas.
The family, who have asked to remain anonymous during this emotional time for them, said that a man in their family, in his 50s, was battling a form of cancer in his back. He was advised that he needed to go to a hospital in the UK for an operation that had a low chance of success… but the man decided it would be worth it.
The operation was a success, and the man was on his way to beating cancer… only to be told that he was COVID-19 positive. He died a few days later, with just his wife in the UK with him.
“The problem is that he had a 5% chance of living, and he made it, only to die from COVID-19… you go to the hospital to be cured, not to catch something else and die, let alone having to go abroad for it,” one family member told Lovin Malta.
“It’s unfair… okay, we are dealing with a pandemic… but we have this hospital that we boast is one of the best in Europe, but we still need to go abroad for operations because we can’t handle these cases here,” they continued.
The family must now coordinate the cremation of his body before he can be brought back for Malta.
“At least we’ll have the ashes, but we’ll never be able to bury him now,” they lamented.
More and more appointments for Maltese patients in British hospitals are being postponed or cancelled due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, which shows no sign of abating.
Oftentimes, Maltese patients with rare or hard-to-treat conditions are sent for specialised treatment in top NHS hospitals in the UK.
Recently, one cancer survivor spoke about what it was like to travel to the UK for treatment during a pandemic. She was thankful for the government’s constant support – but wondered if she could ever look forward to being treated for her condition in Malta.
Patients are referred for specialised treatment abroad after “all local options have been exhausted”.
“Patients who are sponsored by the government for treatment abroad require highly specialised treatment. Most of the cases are cancer patients however patients access treatment overseas for other conditions like cardiac surgery, orthopaedics, ophthalmic, gynaecology and obstetrics,” a Health Ministry spokesperson explained.
Malta has a strong relationship with UK hospitals; it’s worth noting that leading children’s charity Puttinu Cares even has dedicated housing in London to cater for Maltese children seeking treatment in England’s capital.
“Cases referred overseas require specialised equipment and highly specialised interventions which can be offered in a very few centres overseas,” they continued. “Very often cases are rare, hence it would be difficult to retain the necessary expertise due the low number of patients. Centres catering for these patients are few and far between, and even in countries like UK you would only find a centre or two that would offer the service.”