The Human Rights Directorate (HRD) within the Ministry for Justice, Equality and Governance submitted an application under the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union to tap into EU funds to ensure that LGBTIQ persons enjoy equal and non-discriminatory access to health services by enhancing the awareness and capacity of those involved in mainstream healthcare provision to meet their needs.
Malta has one of the best legal frameworks worldwide concerning the recognition and protection of LGBTIQ community, the process of mainstreaming these legal provisions across all public services is still ongoing.
When LGBTIQ people access health services, practitioners assume heterosexuality and most often use according terminologies. This means that LGBTIQ people experience exclusion and invisibility. For trans and intersex people, health professionals using pathologising language and misgendering can result in avoidance of healthcare, as well as other problems.
Lead clinician of the Gender Wellbeing Clinic Dr Mario Cachia said that support in addressing the health care needs of LGBTIQ persons was required from all healthcare providers. This project was therefore important in that it would be providing training to nurses, emergency doctors and frontline staff.
Minister for Justice, Equality and Governance Edward Zammit Lewis said that this project is part of this government's holistic approach towards its commitment in ensuring that the rights of LGBTIQ persons are protected. This project builds on previous EU funded projects such as the Health4LGBTI pilot project of the European Parliament – making use of our expertise in this field wherever possible, such as in the training of customer care and reception staff as well as nursing and other health practitioners.
He added that everyone deserves the right for adequate access to health services whilst reiterating the government's commitment in protecting the rights of all LGBTIQ+ persons.
Parliamentary Secretary for Equality and Reforms, Rosianne Cutajar said that we depend on health services for our wellbeing which is why it is so important that our experience in accessing them is a positive one where we feel seen, heard and understood and where our identities do not give rise to additional challenges and increase stress or anxiety. However, even knowing that LGBTIQ are entitled to equal treatment, they may still experience challenges when accessing the health sector.
This project stems from the government's commitment to ensure equal treatment of LGBTIQ persons in all spheres of life. The parliamentary secretary concluded that equality is and will always be at the top of this Government's agenda to achieve a more equal Malta.
The main objectives of this project are:
· Ensure LGBTIQ persons enjoy equal and non-discriminatory access to health services by enhancing the awareness and capacity of those involved in mainstream healthcare provision to meet their needs;
· Enhance the capacity of medical and psychosocial practitioners to meet the health needs of trans persons;
· Provide resources that inform LGBTIQ patients of their rights and that signpost healthcare services as being LGBTIQ inclusive; and
· Raise awareness among LGBTIQ persons on specific health risks and health services.
Through this project, the needs to be tackled are:
· The training of 60 management staff and practice nurses involved in the provision of health services on facilitating access to healthcare of LGBTIQ people. These managers and practice nurses will act as multipliers within the teams they manage.
· The training of 120 health practitioners to raise awareness and increase knowledge on how to address the health inequalities experienced by LGBTIQ persons.
· The training of 80 general practitioners (GP's) in Malta and Gozo ensuring their practices are inclusive of LGBTIQ patients and providing specialised knowledge on the treatment of trans patients for generic conditions to be delivered by experts from Ghent University Hospital.
· The training of 25 emergency personnel in Malta and Gozo providing specialised knowledge on the treatment of trans patients presenting at casualty to be delivered by experts from Ghent University Hospital.
· Sensitivity training to 300 reception staff working in healthcare settings in both Malta and Gozo.
· The exchange of good practices through partnership with Ghent University Hospital's multi- disciplinary Gender Team with Malta's Gender Wellbeing Clinic Multi-Disciplinary Team.
· The development of a website aimed at general practitioners, psychosocial professionals, nurses, midwives, emergency personnel and other health practitioners modelled on the one developed by Ghent University Hospital on trans health care.
· The conduction of awareness, information and social media campaigns aimed at promoting healthcare services as welcoming and safe spaces for LGBTIQ persons.
· The conduction of awareness, information and social media campaigns aimed at the LGBTIQ community on health risks associated with this cohort.
The project TRANSFORM: Raising standards of health care service provision for LGBTIQ people has been awarded successfully and it will run until October 2021.