A new medical school next to Mater Dei Hospital is being planned, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced in Parliament on Tuesday during the budget debate on health.

“What is good for foreign students is also good for Maltese medical students,” the deputy prime minister said.

His remark was made in the wake of the inauguration of the Barts Medical School at Gozo General Hospital by Steward Healthcare – the American company which two years ago took over the concession for the running of three state hospital from Vitals Global Healthcare.

While few details were divulged by the health minister on the new medical school, he said that in the coming weeks talks would be held with the University of Malta and the Education Ministry.

“Once this new medical school is up and running, the Maltese Islands will have two of the best facilities in Europe,” he said.

The new school will replace another facility at the hospital. 

In the past months, medical students at the University of Malta have complained that adding students from Barts to their ward rounds would negatively impact their studies.

Barts Medical School in Gozo was originally planned to be up and running three years ago. Mr Fearne said that this project was testament to the benefits of the concession given to Steward. The US company, he said, has spent €36 million on this facility alone.

RELATED STORIES

He added that in a few years’ time the student population at Barts in Gozo would treble and reach 300. Moreover, Barts were planning to hold post-graduate courses for foreign doctors, and to bring students from the UK campus to follow part of their course in Gozo. 

The minister’s remarks were made in the wake of the criticism from the Opposition that the annual €50 million per year being paid from taxpayers’ money under this concession, was not being spent well. 

Opposition leader Adrian Delia has also taken the government to court, in an attempt to revoke the concession.

However, none of the Opposition MPs who took part in the budget debate on Tuesday made references to this controversy.

Obesity

Reacting to remarks made by Opposition MP Ryan Callus on the fight against obesity, Dr Fearne noted that last year a fifth of the 168 school canteens inspected were found to be selling food that breached the healthy eating policy.

He added that from next year, obesity would be considered like any other medical condition in the health service, meaning that there would be new obesity clinics at the Żejtun, Attard, Pieta and Żebbuġ health centres.

The Health Minister rubbished claims made by Opposition leader Adrian Delia regarding out-of-stock medicines saying that during the last three years, the average number of items missing never exceeded three. In comparison, under a PN government these had reached 692 at one point. 

He also pointed out that next year government would be allocating €18 million - up from €2 million from two years ago - for cancer medicines.

Addolorata graves

The Health Minister said that the first batch of 400 graves at Addolorata cemetery would be ready in the first half of next year. 

A fresh call would be made for interested buyers as within two years there would be 2,800 new graves.

“We have even eliminated the waiting list for graves,” Dr Fearne jokingly remarked.