A new gender clinic offering multi-disciplinary services to transgender individuals will be opening on Monday, Health Minister Chris Fearne said.

The gender clinic will be located in Mtarfa, and will serve as a focal point for health services for transgender, inter-sex and queer people, a spokeswoman for the Health Ministry said.

When the initiative was announced in a public consultation, Mr Fearne said transgender people require a gender clinic since they have additional specific needs such as hormone therapy and gender affirmation care.

"All persons seeking to benefit from publicly-funded hormone treatment, counseling and surgical procedures will be referred to a multi-disciplinary team to ensure competent and specialised assessment and support throughout the gender affirming transition and beyond," the public consultation document had stated.

Mr Fearne was speaking during the parliamentary debate on the budget for the Health Ministry. Insisting there was still a lot of work to be done, particularly at Mount Carmel, Mr Fearne said some €600 million would be spent on health care this year.

Mr Fearne also said the government would be embarking on a project to provide mental health assistance to youth. A call for expressions of interest will be issued for NGOs who would like to provide mental health therapy to adolescents.

A similar project had already been rolled out at the University of Malta and there were plans to take it to Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology, he added.

Shadow health minister Stephen Spiteri lamented long waiting times at Mater Dei Hospital, insisting they needed to be reduced.

"We need management control and good enforcement and we need enough administrative staff to can keep up with the need," he said.

Operations were sometimes cancelled because of lack of staff such as nurses, he pointed out, adding this was to the detriment of patients.

PN MP Mario Galea pointed out the World Health Organisation had warned of a pandemic in mental health. A conference for a strategy on mental health is to be organised next December, he said, asking whether this was too little, too late.

He urged for a zero-tolerance policy towards mental health stigma, noting one in every four persons deals with mental health problems.