Hospital patient visits hit 10-year low during pandemic

Ministry figures suggest patients stayed away from hospital when the pandemic hit in 2020

Figures tabled in parliament confirm what health professionals feared in 2020 – patients were cancelling hospital appointments to avoid contracting COVID-19.

The statistics show that only 587,101 patients visited Mater Dei Hospital in 2020, the lowest figure seen since at least 2011.

Such patients include emergency room visits, day cases and in-patients, outpatients visits, ward attenders, and patients that needed to use the dialysis in the Renal Unit.

Fears of contracting COVID-19 from Mater Dei had driven many to stay away from hospital at considerable health risk if the condition is serious.

At the onset of the pandemic Mater Dei chief Celia Falzon warned that people were cancelling surgical appointments or failing to turn up despite recommendations by doctors for these to go ahead.

People would fail to turn up for appoints in fear of contracting COVID-19 while at hospital. In fact, authorities absorved in March 2020 that fewer people were turning up at the Accident and Emergency Department, prompting authorities to insist that people should attend hospital if they need to.

At one point, the emergency area was empty – a bad sign since people who need treatment will eventually go to hospital in a much worse state that requires more resources to treat.

This trend continued slightly in 2021, which saw the second lowest hospital visits over the 10-year period at 731,770 individual visits.

2013 saw the highest number of patient visits, with 847,579 total visits by end of year.

The figures were presented by Health Minister Chris Fearne in response to a question by PN MP Chris Said.