Public health specialists still in the waiting room over promotions - 26/8/2009

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Tuesday, 25th August 2009

Public health specialists still in the waiting room over promotions
Public health specialists who applied for a promotion remain in the dark over their future more than a year after they were interviewed.

Between 15 and 20 doctors were interviewed following a call for applications for consultants, which was published in the Government Gazette towards the end of 2007.

Although the interviews were all done by the end of June last year, the doctors are still waiting for the results amid concern the authorities have had a change of heart about the promotions.

Their fears seem to be confirmed in a one-line reply from the Social Policy Ministry spokesman to questions sent by The Times, saying the ministry was revising its position to establish what the real needs were.

The concern of public health specialists was amplified after several failed attempts by the Malta Association of Public Health Medicine to meet Social Policy Minister John Dalli. "We asked to meet the minister but never got a meeting," association president Julian Mamo told The Times. Meetings were re-quested as far back as December.

The association is being supported by the Medical Association of Malta which was at the forefront of negotiations with the government leading to a breakthrough collective agreement in 2007, which put public health doctors on a par with other specialists.

"Planning and administration is of the essence in the health sector. Unless services are well planned patients will suffer," MAM president Martin Balzan said.

He said it was imperative to attract highly qualified people to work in public health since the decisions they took on health services would impact everyone.

It was enough to point out that public health specialists were at the forefront when dealing with swine flu, now a global pandemic.

"When swine flu was found in Malta there was a lot of panic and the number of public health doctors was simply not enough. They were working around the clock and got exhausted," Dr Balzan said.

He said in times of emergency it was patients who would suffer because of a shortage in these essential professions, who specialised in many different areas of public health.

Dr Mamo said there were various sub-categories of the sector, ranging from health promotion, epidemiology, infectious disease control and statistics.

"I am worried about the future of the speciality. If there is no career progression, young people might shy away from choosing this speciality," he said.

Similarly, Dr Balzan said if the government had to change its mind on promoting public health doctors, it would be sending a discouraging message to those doctors who wanted to specialise in this sector.

"It is not acceptable to conduct interviews and never publish results, leaving the applicants in the dark about what happened," he added.

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