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GSD puts ‘planning and future projections’ at heart of healthcare strategy

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

The GSD on Monday said “planning and future projections” would be central to its healthcare policies if elected into government, as it acknowledged ongoing reforms at the GHA even while stressing “much more needs to be done”.

Party leader Keith Azopardi said he recognised, that under Director General Professor Patrick Geoghegan, “some steps” had been taken to tackle issues at the GHA that had led to Prof Geoghegan to describe the organisation as lacking strategic direction and structure when he first took the post in January 2022.

But Mr Azopardi recalled too how the GHA’s former Head of Clinical Governance, Professor Derek Burke, had just months prior to that raised serious concerns about the organisation.

“We welcome the steps that have been taken since [Prof Geoghegan’s] arrival, some of the reforms that have been carried out,” Mr Azopardi said.

“But I think more work needs to be done to build on that work, and that work is fairly recent.”

“So it is not credible to believe that having been here for a short period of time, suddenly, magically, the problems that were encountered by the GHA have disappeared.”

Mr Azopardi, flanked by GSD candidates Joelle Ladislaus and Atrish Sanchez, took issue too with a GHA annual review published last Friday, in which the organisation explained what steps had been taken to meet GSLP/Liberal 2019 manifesto commitments.

Mr Azopardi said publication of the review in the middle of an election campaign was “inappropriate”.

“We’re still in the middle of the election campaign and it would have been easy for the GHA to hold for only 10 days till the campaign was over and then publish its review,” he said.

“The GHA and the government have been at pains to say that since the relaunch of the GHA, the GHA is independent of the government.”

“Well, I don't believe that the government can say the GHA is independent of the government and then use it as a tool in the middle of an election campaign.”

“And I don't believe from the GHA's perspective that it is helpful, if the GHA wants to behave like an independent organisation, to then allow itself to be used as a tool in the middle of an election campaign.”

“I say so very clearly because this is not about specifics, but it is about the importance of ensuring that there is no shadow cast over the campaign in itself.”

“I've welcomed the reforms and I've been very clear about that.”

“But when you read that document, it is obvious that it is a document that is written in a particular way to endorse a program of the government of the day that is now a caretaker administration.”


Speaking to reporters about the provision of services to people with special educational needs, Ms Sanchez said the GSD would develop policies that create “a system that is less confrontational, more efficient, more understanding and equitable for children, young people and their families.”

“It is imperative that we identify special educational needs and disabilities at the earliest point, with support properly put in place and the parents are aware the services that they can reasonably expect to receive,” she said.

“Above all, we must ensure for the full involvement of children, young people and their parents or carers in the decisions about support and aspirations.”

“We aim to raise aspirations of children and young people by focusing on successful transitions, life outcomes, including employment and greater independence.”

“We will implement several policies designed to provide children and adults with more and better opportunities, ensuring equitable access to these opportunities and support throughout different life transitions from childhood to adulthood.”

A holistic approach, she added, “is crucial to this area”.

“To achieve this, we will make future planning and future projection central themes in all our policies, shifting the current government’s approach from one that is reactive to one that is proactive.”

The GSD will also conduct a “comprehensive review” of existing legislation and pathways for children and adults with special educational needs and disabilities, to empower them and the families and carers, ensuring their rights are enshrined in legislation and that they have equal and equitable access to these rights and the enjoyment of these rights.

Among other manifesto pledges is a plan for “a holistic multiagency special needs and disability facility, aiming to provide care, support and equitable opportunities from a central location,” Ms Sanchez said.

“This would increase efficiency, integration, social inclusion and offer more leisure learning, employment and life opportunities.”

She acknowledged, however, that the plan for this facility was “still in the conceptual framework stage” and required significant planning, assessment and financing to become a reality.

Among the GSD’s healthcare commitments is the creation of a Care Quality Commission (CQC) tasked with supervising and monitoring the quality of care provided in Gibraltar.

The CQC will be an independent statutory body with separate funding, and will carry out audits of standards of care.

“It'll ensure that a good standard of care is kept up,” Ms Ladislaus said.

“It's an independent watchdog which will obviously be open to the public in case there are concerns that the public wishes to raise, and any complaints, and those will be taken into consideration.”

Ms Ladislaus said the GSD had a “very, very comprehensive” program to “regenerate and revive” the healthcare system.

The focus would be not just on improving quality of care, but also on ensuring that healthcare professionals enjoyed the best work conditions and were listened to when developing future policies and initiatives.

“I don't think it's any secret that there's very low morale at the moment within the GHA,” she said.

“Our professionals are not listened to as they should be.”

“And there's a disconnect between, in essence, the ministerial side of things and the operational side of things within the hospital, and within certain areas of health generally.”

The GSD said it would only have a clearer view of what was needed if and when it was elected to government, adding that in many areas the first step would be to commission reviews to properly understand the situation at the GHA.

“What people can expect from us is that we will review everything if we are elected,” Ms Ladislaus said.

“And through the results of those reviews, we will listen to our experts, the people who work for the GHA, the people who are on the ground every single day and who have the most experience in these areas.”

“And we will then take it forward so that we can hopefully generate our health system for the benefits of all.”

But there were clear initiatives too even at this early stage, including a specific budget for mental healthcare and the introduction of a mental health director to oversee strategy and coordination of services.

Other initiatives may take longer, for example a review of contracts with external health providers to the GHA, “which of course is again a very big expenditure for the GHA itself”.

And there will be an effort too to tackle the perennial problems associated with the GP appointment system, and to ensure better follow up support and communication for patients, “which we say is currently lacking”.

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