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Malta - Health Service

In the event of a serious, life-threatening emergency in Malta, you can call the ambulance, fire services and police on the free phone number 112.

Other important phone numbers that are useful to know in Malta are:

• +356 2545 0000 – main hospital, Malta
• +356 2156 1600 – Gozo Hospital
• +356 2122 4001-7 – Malta police force
• +356 2124 4371 – emergency helicopter rescue
• +356 2123 8797 – emergency patrol boat rescue

Malta has a publicly funded healthcare system, free at the point of delivery. It is paid for by workers contributing to the national insurance system, regardless of their country of origin. In 2017 a recently implemented health privatisation programme continued to be rolled out. Three hospitals have been leased to Vitals Global Healthcare, and there is some criticism that the contract has not been available for public scrutiny. Many Maltese residents are concerned that their world leading healthcare system is being used to generate profits.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranked countries according to the standard of medical care, and Malta was 5th in the world. The average life expectancy for Maltese men is currently 79 years, and 82 years for women. This places it 16th on the global list of countries by life expectancy. It is slightly ahead of the UK in 20th position with approximately 4 months’ difference. It is well ahead of the US at number 31, where average life expectancy for men is 76 years, and 81 years for women.

Primary care is provided by local General Practitioners, who will make any necessary referrals to hospital for further investigation or treatment. There are eight public healthcare centres offering General Practitioner and Nursing Services in Malta and Gozo. They also offer a range of ancillary services such as speech and language therapy, immunisation, and so on.

Mater Dei Hospital, the acute general and teaching hospital based in Msida, is opposite the University of Malta. The newly built hospital was opened in 2007 as a flagship public hospital. In 2014 specialist oncology services were opened in the newly built Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Hospital.

There is also a general hospital located on Gozo.

A private healthcare industry also operates in Malta. The Maltese government strongly recommends foreigners take out private healthcare insurance and receive private treatment.

As in the UK and US, dentistry practices in Malta are run privately so payment is made after treatment.

Pharmacists usually provide a service during normal shopping hours. On Sundays, a roster system 9-12.30am on Malta and 7.30-11am on Gozo ensures patients have access to emergency prescriptions.

Anyone holding a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can have access to emergency treatment in Malta if they are taken ill or have an accident whilst on holiday or a business trip. However, it does not cover the medical expenses for any EHIC holder who has travelled to Malta for the express purpose of obtaining medical treatment or giving birth. If seeking the services of a doctor, make sure you ask for a state funded doctor at the beginning of the conversation. If you accidentally enter a private healthcare facility because this was not discussed before treatment, the EHIC card cannot cover the costs. Dentistry costs are not covered unless you have received emergency acute dental treatment in a public hospital or health centre. Prescriptions for EHIC holders are provided free of charge whilst you are a hospital inpatient, and for the first three days after discharge. In all other cases the medication must be paid for by the patient.

Approximately one in four Maltese residents is a smoker, which is a higher proportion than many other European countries but well below Greece and Bulgaria. Since January 2013 smoking in an indoor public space is prohibited. Whilst this was also interpreted to include e-cigarettes, a recent court case successfully argued that e-cigarettes do not constitute a tobacco product. E-cigarettes and e-liquids are sold by a number of retailers in Malta.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Malta has the highest rate of obesity in the European Union, especially for men. 26% of Maltese adults are considered obese, compared to 24% in the UK, although this is lower than the US rate of 35.7%. Obesity normally increases with age, and like the UK almost a quarter of the population in Malta is over the age of 60. However, the WHO study found almost 30% of 11-15 year olds were overweight or obese.

Diabetes, a disease strongly linked to obesity, has been diagnosed in just over 10% of the population. The government has launched programmes to tackle obesity and diabetes, as these conditions cause personal cost to the sufferers as well as the medical costs for treatment. Schools are now only permitted to sell water instead of the range of soft drinks previously available. A screening programme has been implemented to monitor juvenile weight.

Part of the issue is dependance on cars and little interest in cycling. The terrain of the archipelago does not help promote physical activity during everyday tasks. But participation in sports and physical activity is also much lower than in many other countries. Combined with the westernised diet, rather than the mediterranean diet enjoyed by nearby Sicily and Italy, the lack of exercise is causing great concern to health experts and government departments because of the long term consequences for the population.

Mental health services tend to be based at the Mount Carmel Hospital, which treats both chronic and acute conditions in the same wards. A crisis clinic at Mater dei also treats outpatients. There is ongoing work by the Mental Health Services to assess the community based psychiatric services offered in other countries, as the Mount Carmel Hospital is dogged by debts and is seen to offer little collaboration with General Practitioners.

Recent changes to the Mental Health Act allow patients to discharge themselves from Mount Carmel, but there is concern that this could happen withouta care plan being implemented. The newly implemented Board of Directors for Mental Health are drawing up a strategy which is expected to include the refurbishment of parts of Mount Carmel hospital and opening a new mental health facility. There have been strong calls for the psychiatric services to be omitted from the current health privatisation programme being implemented in Malta.

Mental Health Malta is a non-profit organisation supporting those who suffer from mental health issues and their families. Their website gives information about the support they can provide and how to contact them.

Aġenzija Appoġġ is the Maltese Foundation for Social Welfare Services. Amongst the support services it provides is Supportline 179. This is a confidential telephone support line, run by professionally trained volunteers, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Callers are welcome from any age group regardless of whether you need to talk through a minor matter that is worrying you, or if you are in a crisis situation and need to talk to someone urgently. They can also refer you to other support agencies if required.

In November 2009 a European Commission directive reserved a 'harmonised' set of numbers beginning with 116, to be used for services of social value that would be common across all EU member states. 24 hour emotional support lines, including the Samaritans in the UK and Aġenzija Appoġġ in Malta, can all be accessed by calling 116 123. The number connects you to the support line services operating from wherever you are making the call.

Another Maltese support service provided by trained volunteers is Programme Ulied Darna. Volunteers provide practical help to families under stress, including childminding help for parents attending Aġenzija Appoġġ appointments and providing transport to important appointments.

Trained volunteers from Home-Start Malta offer support, friendship and practical help to parents with children under the age of 5. The families may be struggling with such problems as health or financial issues, social isolation, or multiple births. The family and Home-Start Malta work together to agree an action plan which will be supported by the volunteers.

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