Earlier this week the government and Puttinu Cares Foundation signed an important agreement.
As a result, the National Social and Development Fund will apply €5 million of its funds to assist in the purchasing of more apartments by the foundation to further its objective of assisting cancer patients undergoing treatment in London. This is indeed commendable.
I say this notwithstanding being aware of the origin of the funds accumulated in the National Social and Development Fund as a result of the detestable golden passports scheme. Known as the Individual Investment Programme, this scheme selling passports and citizenship is objectionable on a point of principle. Using the funds which it generates for solidarity measures will not sanitise it.
Earlier, during the month of August, the Ministry for Social Solidarity made €1 million of public funds available to the Hospice Movement to help it in its support services both to patients suffering terminal illness as well as their relatives.
Last year it was the Farsons Foundation and its affiliates who assisted the Hospice Movement through a €115,000 donation towards the establishment of the St Michael Hospice, the first state-of-the-art complex in Malta which will be dedicated entirely to providing comprehensive palliative care.
The St Michael Hospice is to be developed instead of the former Adelaide Cini Institute which the Church in Malta handed over to Hospice Malta. Archbishop Scicluna, in launching this Church initiative, stated that it was inspired by the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis in 2015.
It is indeed heartening to know that Maltese society in general has its heart in the right place and is capable of acting to alleviate suffering and also to assist, whenever possible, in the recovery of those who can make this journey. All of us have a loved one who was or still is in the shadows of cancer.
Being capable of acting in this way is commendable. We can, however, in addition to all this strive to avoid, as much as possible, such suffering.
Adopting adequate environmental policies and ensuring that they are observed would undoubtedly, in the long term, avoid the incidence of a good percentage of terminal illnesses.
Launching the Beating Cancer Plan earlier this year, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that “Even though 30 to 40 per cent of all cancers are preventable, only 3 per cent of health budgets are invested in prevention strategies”. Is it not time that we put our heads together to address this anomaly?
Medical screening does wonders and has saved many lives, even in Malta. All would however agree that this is not enough.
Reducing environmental risk factors such as all forms of pollution and exposure to chemicals would be a good first step together with the improvement of access to healthy diets and the further promotion of vaccinations.
Within this context, in my opinion, the reluctance to act decisively on the use of pesticides in agriculture is of extreme concern. I am informed that in this day and age we still do not have the necessary facilities available locally to be able to examine and test agricultural products in order to determine the pesticide residue which they retain. Still having to send agricultural samples for testing to overseas laboratories makes a mockery of our ability to apply the EU regulatory setup intended to protect each and every one of us.
When results of tests carried out to agricultural samples selected for pesticide residue testing are available this will be generally too late as the products potentially laced with pesticides would have been sold and most probably consumed.
Limiting ourselves to pesticide use and abuse we need an adequate regulatory setup as a result of which pesticides would no longer be sold over the counter but through a prescription-type system and regulated by qualified agricultural pharmacists. Our farmers should be trained in the proper use of pesticides and not be left to their own devices. Together with a rigorous sampling and testing policy buttressed with a locally run laboratory we could in the medium term start the process of prevention of pesticide-induced illness.
Acting through adequate control of use of pesticides is just one step. The consistent application of sensible environmental policy across the board would yield better results entrenching prevention as the preferred option in our health strategy.
This would take us a big step beyond solidarity, as prevention is definitely better than cure.