Deputy PM and Health Minister Chris Fearne answered questions about various sectors in the field of healthcare during the programme DISSETT last night, including the increase in HIV cases, the relationship with Steward Health Care and the new IVF treatments.
The IVF procedure which started being used in October following the amendments to the Embryo Protection Act has already helped eight women who for the first time could fertilize five eggs instead of two. Minister Fearne confirmed that there are those who are expecting their first child, as a result of the amendments made to the law this year.
Speaking about frozen embryos, he said that there are ten couples who have frozen embryos, and explained that eight of them will be using them in the next cycle.
“The chance of having a baby from a frozen embryo is greater than ever because before you used to have an egg which was frozen, you thaw it and fertilize it. However now you have less of a chance of losing a frozen embryo and therefore of losing a life, than with the old law,” he explained.
Asked about how this law was being implemented when there was a constitutional case against it, Minister Fearne insisted that Parliament makes the laws.
With reference to the agreement with Steward Health Care, Dr Fearne said that over this last year they have invested €25 million. He confirmed that the Government is negotiating with the company to introduce new elements in the field of healthcare.
“Steward has a system, where apart from a nurse, there is a system of surveillance, where every patient has eight monitors, and you have a specialised nurse located elsewhere who is supervising what that nurse is doing. Therefore if that nurse forgets something, there is another level of supervision which is overseeing her,” the Deputy PM said.
Questioned about the introduction of robotics in operations, Minister Fearne said that this is already being used on Maltese patients abroad. He said that surgeons will continue to perform operations and they need robotic help in the handling of surgical tools during operations.
“These operations can take hours. If there is a human assistant who starts becoming tired, the camera, the probe can move and the operation is not done perfectly. However, a robot holds these probes in a precise way, you can speak to it, it understands you, and it works precisely to the last millimetre. In other words, the robot does the operation which the surgeon is doing, and the surgeon can keep working in the most precise way possible”.
Minister Fearne said that the project to expand Mater Dei will begin next year. With reference to the Gozo hospital, Dr Fearne said that the work on the Barts campus is at an advanced stage and that after it is ready, work will begin on the Gozo hospital.