The Government is disappointed at the GSD’s and Together Gibraltar’s absurd and disingenuous attempts to discredit the phenomenal efforts of the GHA to review and improve its services, all in the middle of a global pandemic.
As with all health authorities, particularly while dealing with daily clinical issues and an ongoing pandemic and winter surge in cases, the GHA is looking closely at all elements of health provision; this includes services being revisited, reformed and streamlined where possible. This in no way implies that there is disarray, but rather, a period of entirely necessary reorganisation, with services in greatest need of resource investment such as mental health services, being more in the public eye until changes have settled.
Reorganisation of any service may cause disruptions and perhaps changes of practice that service users are not accustomed to after a long period of being used to one particular way; again this is not disarray but positive change.
Reorganisation of any service will of course include changes in staff, and in a few cases even a non-renewal of a contract, termination of a contract or resignation of a member of staff. This may happen for many reasons taking in to account the needs of the member of staff and the needs of the GHA going forward. It must also be noted that over the past year, the GHA had supplemented its existing staff with additional clinical staff to help Gibraltar get through the pandemic. Where such additional staff is no longer needed, staff have not been retained. Service improvements and changes can sometimes result in staff members feeling that their own career path does not align with the service improvements and may as a result end in a discussion about leaving the GHA for a number of reasons. Each staff member’s needs are discussed and considered and where possible the staff member is supported in their request.
COVID-19 has consumed our thoughts and health services for almost 2 years, but it is worth remembering that in recent years, before the pandemic, major changes to many aspects of health care provision were put in place, including a new Ocean Views, Bellavista and Hillsides facilities, Primary Care Centre and a new Children’s Health Centre, changes to the primary care telephone system, sick certificate telephone line and results line, along with recruitment of more GPs and Consultants for services such as Cardiology and Urology, and additional counselling and psychology staff for Mental Health Services to name but a few. Not to mention the very significant number of staff recruited at the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
As a result of and since the pandemic, initiatives such as the 111 service for the COVID response were more recently extended to operate as a mental health crisis pathway and have continued and created a very positive effect on the delivery of services to the community. This all while adding services such as contact tracing, drive through swabbing and a community wide and highly successful vaccination programme, often with no increase in staffing due to a global shortage of clinical staff. None of these reforms, introduced in consultation with professionals, can in any way be dismissed, underestimated or forgotten.
Minister for Health, the Hon Samantha Sacramento said: “It is absurd and disingenuous for the opposition parties to suggest that the GHA is in disarray. Like health services worldwide, the GHA is in a stage of review and reorganisation following a globally devastating two years of pandemic. It is entirely right to now take this opportunity to improve our practices and build on where we left off before the pandemic, with the harsh lessons we have learned over the past 2 years. This is all to the credit of the professional teams who have almost seamlessly transitioned from the exhausting work of fighting the pandemic, to that of embracing reforms, change and service improvements.”
“There is so much excellent work going on in the GHA that it is unfair to fail to recognise that. It is, of course true, that we have to improve many aspects of what we do. We are constantly driving to achieve that. But what we cannot ignore is that COVID-19 has been the greatest challenge of our lifetimes and the people in the GHA have worked as hard as possible to get our community over it. We have invested more money than any government in history in our health services. We employ more health professionals than we have ever employed. That is what enabled the GHA to get us through COVID. Now we have to fix parts of the way we do things as we emerge from this COVID shock. I am looking forward to making a major announcement on the Health Services in Gibraltar in which we have been working now for many months as we look to the future beyond COVID and in a manner that will resolve many issues that the pandemic has created.’