The Minister for Health, Neil Costa, yesterday highlighted ongoing work to repatriate health services to the Rock against the backdrop of Brexit, which he said could exacerbate Gibraltar’s “island characteristics”.
Mr Costa, speaking during the opening address at Inter-Island Public Health Forum being held in Gibraltar, said repatriation of services would help reduce Gibraltar’s reliance on UK and Spanish hospitals.
He was addressing health professionals from islands such as the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey, and the Cayman Islands.
“Although Gibraltar is not physically an island and is not isolated geographically in that sense, it is true that Gibraltar has for political and historical reasons functioned – and still functions – very much like an island,” Mr Costa said.
“I dare say that Brexit may well highlight and accentuate some of our island characteristics as we move forward.”
“As a nation and as a people we are very much aware of the issues and problems that face small nations.”
Mr Costa described how the Rock has begun repatriating many surgical and medical procedures, in order to “lessen unnecessary reliance and dependence” on the NHS and Spanish tertiary centres.
Vascular Surgery, Renal Replacement, Keyhole Bariatric and Colorectal Surgery, Specialist Shoulder and Ankle Surgery (including replacement of shoulders and ankles), Urology and Haematology are all services that are now treated in Gibraltar.
Mr Costa also described the difficulty in guaranteeing sustained bed availability at St Bernard’s Hospital, which holds 149 beds.
“In two years, we have been able to increase daily average bed availability from nine beds to 70 beds,” Mr Costa said.
Mr Costa thanked all those who travelled from abroad and hoped the health professionals will enjoy the “rich, varied and busy programme” on offer.
The three-day conference held at the Caleta Hotel will see speakers from all sectors of health give talks ranging from addiction and public health to diabetes and dementia.