Saturday, April 28, 2012

MALTA Demonstrates Health Care for All

Valletta, Malta waterfront
                                                       Along with other current volunteers, I have been asked to help with pre-service training for the next group of 45 Peace Corps trainees who arrive in Armenia on May 25. They will be greeted by a volunteer with a resolving black eye and a small scar over her left eye. (This reminds me of last year when we arrived in Armenia and were greeted by a volunteer who also had a black eye, facial lacerations and evidence of trauma. Pat, the volunteer, has been my role model ever since then!) Yes, while on a short vacation recently in Malta, I ungracefully or clumsily tripped on the curb and fell, hitting my face on the sidewalk.   There was a deep laceration over my left eye and bleeding, which resulted in much unwanted attention from passersby and also required a few sutures. My pride was hurt, but I am lucky to have only minor consequences of the incident.

Emergency Room in St. Paul Baffo Hospital, Floriana, Malta

          Having an accident in a foreign country is frightening, but the health care system of Malta was amazingly efficient. I was cared for quickly and professionally in the Paul Baffo Hospital Dermatology Clinic in Floriana, Malta. After the injury, Dave and I walked to the clinic.
Upon arrival, contrary to procedures in the U. S., I was assessed as an emergency case with treatment of my injury being the priority. I was not asked about my insurance, my name, allergies, medical history or anything. Although in reality, this lack of information could present serious problems, it worked out well for me.  An excellent dermatologist on staff that day sutured my laceration while we had a fine conversation of her travels over the world and the fact that David and I were from the U. S. Peace Corps.   There was NO CHARGE for this service although the Peace Corps does cover approved medical costs for volunteers, and we even offered to pay out-of-pocket.  The doctor said that basically all medical care in Malta is free due to their high taxes and since we were volunteers there’d be no charge. We were even driven back to our hotel by a hospital vehicle headed in that direction. I did e-mail my appreciation to the hospital and our Peace Corps physician did the same.  We were both grateful for the care provided.
                                                    So,  what else about MALTA...................................
        Malta, like Armenia, is filled with historical sites and stories of struggle.  Beginning 7000 years ago, invasions and attempted invasions were made by the Normans, the Ottoman Turks, Napoleon, the  Germans and Italians. The small country’s strength and resilience against outside forces was severely tested time and again.  As a result, there are hundreds of places to see, from ancient megalithic temples to stone bastions and forts built many years ago, to elaborate churches and art galleries.  
Downtown view, Valletta, Malta

 The architecture of Valletta, the capital of Malta, is exquisite with its balconies and brightly colored doors.   The strength of stone is prominent in most buildings and original cobblestone streets are in use throughout Valletta. Immensely thick, high walls surround Valletta and sky –blue water of the Mediterranean Sea brings ships of all types to its waterfront.  The walled city of Mdina is another site to visit and again shows how even a small town of 300 people can maintain its historic presence for others to see and study

Dave in front of a megalithic temple in rural Malta

Judy in garden outside Malta President's Palace
      Although our limited time allowed for seeing only a small portion of this intriguing country, we think staying in historic Valletta was the correct choice for us.   Learning of the Siege of Malta, touring museums and art galleries, strolling the immaculately clean streets, and attending cultural events , all within one week, made for a most memorable and refreshing holiday.  Since English is the second language after Maltese, there was also a respite from struggling with a difficult foreign language.  Dining in local restaurants and cafes was not only tasty but also stimulating learning experiences as we tried typical Maltese dishes and wines along with other cuisine.  Rabbit is the entrée of choice in Malta and it was served in numerous recipes in most restaurants.  We met a former Ambassador to Russia, a street musician who plays the bandura and sang with a gorgeous operatic voice, a couple from Great Britain who’ve traveled the world over, and countless other casual acquaintances on buses and in public places. 
             Malta, unlike Armenia, is a country attempting to protect the environment through recycling, reduced smoking and increased attention to garbage and trash disposal. Streets are immaculately clean even in the many construction sites in renovation areas.  People smile and are cordial to tourists because, like Armenia, tourism is their country’s livelihood. The difference is that Maltese people realize their country’s assets and want to promote them to outsiders. Tourist information centers are friendly and filled with ideas and materials about what is happening in the country. Many cultural events are free to the public and health care is also free or at very low costs to the Maltese people although taxes are reportedly high. Public transportation is widespread both day and night and primarily small, fuel- efficient cars are seen on the streets. The people of Malta are generally future-oriented with renovations and new buildings occurring alongside preservation and care for historic sites. These observations over a week’s time are not totally comprehensive but certainly enough to recommend this country as a “must see” for travelers seeking beauty, history, warmth of both climate and people, and change from one’s usual routines of living.
      Situated in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta is a place of overwhelming beauty which many  people would not even think of visiting, similar to Armenia.  David and I feel fortunate to have visited both and certainly encourage readers of this blog to consider Malta as a memorable vacation destination. Armenia could learn a lot from Malta as it strives to become economically stronger. Let’s hope that at some point in the future the positive influences of other countries will help Armenia to prosper, develop its resources, and become a more prominent member of the world around it.    

David with carriage driver who offers tours
of Valletta ,Malta

Fountain in front of governmental building in downtown Valletta, Malta


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