Around 30 transgender people are receiving services – ranging from counselling to hormone therapy - at the new gender clinic in Mtarfa.
The multi-disciplinary clinic opens its doors once a month, hosting surgeons, social workers, a family therapist, a speech and language pathologist and a psychologist.
Clients need to be referred to the clinic by their family doctor, a hospital specialist, a social worker or a psychologist.
Those moving to Malta from abroad who are entitled to free healthcare here, also need a referral by the gender clinic in order to start receiving the required treatment that is available on the government formulary list.
Addressing the media outside the clinic on Monday, Health Minister Chris Fearne said that universal healthcare was in line with the government's and the World Health Organisation’s policy.
The government had tried to address any shortcoming when it comes to accessibility and last year it focused, among others, on services for transgender people.
Mr Fearne said transgender people required a gender clinic since they had additional specific needs, such as hormone therapy and gender affirmation care.
A press release issued later in the day by his ministry stated that 35 people were currently using services at the clinic.
So far public healthcare was not addressing such needs, so the government had drawn up a policy and also included treatment within the government formulary list, before opening the clinic in November.
A transgender healthcare public consultation was held between April and June, and the final document was published on Monday.
Back in August of 2017, the government had said it was planning on introducing free gender reassignment treatment “without delay”.
Then last year a spokeswoman for the Health Ministry had said that the process was delayed because of consultation with NGOs, clinicians and various stakeholders on the document.
What does the policy document say?
- The Health Ministry will support awareness-raising and training for the health workforce, to render services more user-friendly for transgender people.
- While some people officially change their name and gender to better match their identity, some do not. The Health Ministry is collaborating with Identity Malta to share such information securely to avoid misgendering .
- The Health Ministry is proposing use of standards of care issued by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health as a starting point for the elaboration of local treatment protocols.
- Care and services will range from primary care, gynecologic and urologic care, reproductive options, voice and communication therapy, psychological support, psychiatric care, psychotherapy and hormonal and surgical treatment.
- To ensure that children and adolescents are appropriately cared for and to facilitate transitioning, pediatric experts also form part of the multi-disciplinary team.
- Early use of puberty-supressing hormones may avert negative social and emotional consequences. Reversible treatment may, therefore, be considered in adolescents, ideally with parental support and involvement. Partly or fully irreversible treatment should be considered after the age of 16.
- Health Ministry will explore further links with expert centres overseas where local members of the multidisciplinary team can acquire more specialised training.
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