Health Minister Godfrey Farrugia kept a low profile yesterday after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat ordered the removal of a tent set up outside Mater Dei Hospital to serve as a reception area in case of an influx of influenza patients.

Late on Friday, Dr Muscat ordered the large temporary tent, which was installed on the initiative of the Health Ministry, to be dismantled.

Dr Muscat described the decision to erect the tent and use it as a new reception area for patients as “wrong” and “insensitive,” even though “intentions were good”.

When contacted, Dr Farrugia said: “I was reacting as swiftly and proactively as possible, to a fast evolving situation, brought about by an impending surge in influenza afflicted patients that may require hospitalization.

“Keeping in mind that shortage of beds was/is an ongoing situation inherited from a previous administration who failed miserably to address the issue properly, I had to come up with a number of temporary solutions which would meet the increased forecasted demand, until more permanent solutions are in place. Any solution had to fit within the constraints of time, space and finances, as well as availability of manpower.”

Dr Farrugia said that this solution was one of them , but said that “in my haste to have a contingency plan to tide us over till the end of February I understand that I did not explain this temporary measure adequately to the general public or stakeholders.”

Dr Farrugia said he never consulted with the Prime Minister on this issue “so I understand his reaction”. He said he did not consider the issue a resigning matter.

In a statement issued through the Department of Information, the Health Ministry admitted the decision to erect the tent “could have been more sensitive and prudent”, particularly for patients and their families. Contacted for a reaction, Opposition health spokesman Claudio Grech said that after 11 months in office it was about time that the government started governing.

“This government cannot keep linking its mishaps to the previous administration and people are expecting it to deliver on its promises. Certainly the tent brainwave wasn’t a PN idea,” Mr Grech said.

According to the Opposition, the most concerning aspect is that the government is trying to address complex issues, such as the bed shortages, through inadequate measures and is delivering a plan as it goes along.

“Our appeal remains clear and unequivocal,” Mr Grech reiterated.

“We remain committed to an open, collaborative approach on the key challenges of the health sector. I believe patients should in all instances come before politics.”

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us