Medical Council replies to - 27/9/2004

The Medical Council
Herbert Guillaumier, registrar, The Medical Council.

In its editorial of September 6 The Times writes that "something is going woefully wrong" with the Medical Council because, as The Times had earlier reported, "a pensioner" was appealing for more efficiency after his complaint before the council had taken more than seven months to be determined, and for more transparency because the "pensioner" had not been given the reason for which the council had reached its decision.

Regarding the alleged delay, the "pensioner" complained about an incident that had occurred in July 2002. He sent his complaint to the Medical Council on December 1, 2003, at a time when the council was dissolved upon the coming into force of the Health Care Professions Act in November 2003. Because of the time necessarily taken for the appointment and election of its members in accordance with the said law, the new Medical Council could not start functioning before mid-April 2004, a fact which The Times presumably had been made aware of by its reporter. It was only then that the council could start considering a number of matters, among which the "pensioner's" complaint.

It is the council's normal practice to inform the complainant of its decision to conduct an inquiry or otherwise within three months of receipt of the complaint. The "pensioner" was informed of this decision in this regard on July 1, 2004. The reasons for the council's decision have now been communicated to the "pensioner".

As regards transparency, all proceedings of the council are by law treated as confidential.

Finally, The Times states, with reference to the Medical Council, that "the fact that the majority of its members come from the profession itself endows it with the requisite level of expertise to deal with matters of this nature". Indeed this advantage is recognised throughout the world such that most bodies regulating the medical and dental professions are made up of a majority of medical professionals. In our case, in accordance with the law above named, even at the unilateral proposal of the Medical Association of Malta, the Medical Council now also has two lay members who are not health care professionals apart from its president, who is a judge.

Nonetheless, The Times further states that "particularly because the council is dominated by representatives of the medical profession, it is clearly unacceptable..." This appears to put in doubt the integrity of the doctors and dental surgeons who are members of the council and their impartiality when considering and deciding upon complaints. Perhaps The Times might wish to clarify such statement.

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