Printer Friendly

Caring for the elderly and Malta's national health scheme.

Caring for the Elderly and Malta's National Health Scheme

One of the most significant global developments of this century is the dramatic increase in the number and proportion of aging persons. Demographic trends indicate that in the next few decades the number of the elderly will reach over one billion, with 75 percent living in developing countries.

Persons sixty and over today make up about 13 percent of Malta's total population of 358,000 and may reach 23 percent by the first half of the next century. This increase has given rise to greater demand for state provisions, which is reinforced by the spread of modernization, migration, and changing family and kinship support systems. Despite the cultural values in Malta that strongly uphold the responsibility of children to care for their parents, the family as a basic social unit is undergoing profound changes. Declining fertility rates coupled with the survival of parents is increasing the relative burden placed on family members to support the elderly.

Consequently, the government of Malta has assumed some of the families' traditional responsibilities. The government is committed to develop policies and programs to enhance the lives of the elderly and to mitigate by appropriate measures any negative effects resulting from the aging population's impact on development. The government has already taken an important step by designating a Parliamentary Secretariat for the Care of the Elderly entrusted with organizing services to provide the best possible conditions for the elderly.

A major policy issue at present is finding a proper balance between family and government assistance, so that the family may continue to respond to the needs of its elderly members, knowing that outside care is available when critically required. Providing community and home-based care for older persons is becoming a central measure in the government's policy for supporting the family. The government also recognizes the important role of voluntary organizations in reaching these objectives.

To develop quality services for the elderly, the Secretariat for the Care of the Elderly is developing long- and short-term education and training policies and programs in gerontology and geriatrics. Through the Institute of Gerontology, the government, in cooperation with the University of Malta, is making education and training in the various aspects of aging available at all levels. Further, the government is converting a former general hospital into an acute geriatric teaching hospital with 100 beds that, besides providing for the rehabilitation of elderly patients, will also serve as a day hospital and a center for the distribution of medicine and other related services.

Malta's International Institute on Aging In April 1988, U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar inaugurated the International Institute on Aging in Valetta, Malta. With the help of international experts, the Institute is designing multi-disciplinary training programs at various locations including the University of Malta to improve health care delivery to the elderly and to enhance the skills of caregivers.

The main objective of the Institute is to facilitate in a practical way the implementation of the Vienna International Plan of Action on Aging. The Institute is particularly concerned to fulfill the training needs of developing countries and to act as a practical bridge between and among developed and developing countries. Its major activities will focus on training, research data collection, information exchange, technical cooperation, and publications.

To date, three international meetings have been convened at the Institute: the United Nations Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs Expert Group Meeting on "Strategies for the Participation of the Elderly in Development," and the World Health Organization's "Working Group on the Organization of Comprehensive Care of the Elderly in the Community" in 1988. In February 1989 Malta hosted an Expert Group Meeting on "Long-Term Training in Gerontology and Geriatrics," whose objective was to design multi-disciplinary courses and curricula at the international level, leading to a university degree/diploma in gerontology and geriatrics, and to identify teaching materials.

The National Health Scheme In August 1988, two Working Committees were established by the Minister for Social Policy to implement the government's proposals to reorganize the National Health Scheme. The two proposals under study are the General Practitioner Scheme, designed to establish a comprehensive, free-of-charge service of primary health care for all citizens, and the Free Drug Scheme reorganizing the distribution of prescription medication. The General Practitioner Scheme recognizes each individual's right to take charge of his or her own health. It permits each citizen to register with the doctor of his or her choice among physicians subscribing to the service, and emphasizes home over hospital care. The Working Committee has recommended that a minimum of 120 physicians join the plan to implement it on a national basis; if fewer subscribe it could be established on a regional basis.

The Free Drug Scheme would enable patients to obtain essential drugs free-of-charge from a pharmacist of their own choosing. Those entitled to free medication must meet the standard of total household income established by the Social Security Act of 1987. The Working Committee has recommended that certain groups be covered under this plan irrespective of income: pregnant women, handicapped persons, and all those aged seventy or over. This last would be a step toward extending coverage to all elderly persons. Emmanuel Agius is a visiting lecturer in moral theology at the University of Malta.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Hastings Center
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Agius, Emmanuel
Publication:The Hastings Center Report
Date:Jul 1, 1989
Previous Article:In Ghana, conflict and complementarity.
Next Article:Ethical responsibility in the German Democratic Republic.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters