link to The Times article
New Medical Council
Professor Joseph A. Muscat, Ta' Xbiex.
The Medical Council of Malta has recently published its annual report for 2004. The report is of unusual importance since it follows the enactment of the Health Care Professions Act 2003, on November 21, 2003, which replaced Art. 20 of the Department of Health (Constitution) Ordinance. The new Act thus abolished the Medical Council as constituted in 1959.
The present Medical Council as constituted under the new Act is a marked advance on its predecessor, and now has a greater semblance of a prime, quasi-judicial public body established for the self-regulation of the medical profession as befits a modern democracy and a member of the European Union.
For the first time the lay public is represented on the Council. It also embodies an increased representation of most of its professional members, seven out of ten of whom are directly elected by their respective professional bodies. The one anomaly that stands out is the direct appointment of a further two professionals, namely a doctor and a dentist, by the Prime Minister.
All this and more is very well set out in the annual report which is superior to any of the previous annual reports. However, what is more important is that the report seeks to shed light on what the Medical Council is doing and how it is operating, contrary to what happened in former years, where secrecy under the pretext of confidentiality seemed to be the watchword.
We now know that the number of functions allotted to the Medical Council has increased and that to "better perform its functions" the Council has set up special committees, in accordance with the new Act.
The most important of these committees is the committee to hear inquiries, on which the lay members sit. During 2004, 19 complaints were received by the Medical Council, 17 against doctors and two against dentists, and it was decided to inquire into seven of the complaints. The nature of the complaints being inquired into is also given, as it is of those deemed not deserving inquiry, two of which is stated to have been "loss of temper".
The final results of the elections to the new Medical Council were made public on March 22, 2004. Of 1,170 medical practitioners on the principal list, 520 votes were cast, This 48.6% mark is regarded in the annual report as "no good augury". I would prefer to look at it as a promising sign that the medical profession in Malta is interested in making the instrument for its self-regulation more democratic, more transparent and accountable than it ever has been. And this as is proper in a forward-looking, highly responsible public body which is the medical profession.