Roamer's column attacks MAM (24th July) - 24/7/2005

link to article in The TIMES

MAM's marbles
It looks increasingly as if it is losing them. Not only does it get its facts about Alex Manché's salary wrong by 30 per cent, or Lm10,000 (it emerged he earns Lm35,000 net, not Lm45,000). It has its logic in a twist.

If the Medical Association of Malta should be doing anything, it should be to improve the salaries of its members where this is possible and deserved. It ought to avoid getting all in a tizzy over the payment received by an eminently skilful cardiac surgeon.

By not doing so it has given a strong impression of falling for the politics of envy. That the association should be envious of one of its own makes it all even more reprehensible. And as a Times leader pointed out last week, why has it taken MAM ten years to spark, if not sparkle?

We should be clear about a couple of things. By having Mr Manché here, the country is saving hundreds of thousands of Maltese liri (as are indeed his patients) and the man himself is losing out substantially on the sort of salary he could command in the UK where he was working before he chose to return to, and serve, Malta.

Had he performed all the open-heart surgery operations he carried out in Malta abroad as a surgeon in private practice (4,134, of which 3,390 were by-pass operations and 10 were transplants) he would have been a millionaire four times over by now. If anything, the man is underpaid.

Under the chairmanship of Professor Albert Fenech, the Cardiac Unit in Malta has gone from strength to strength. It is now reckoned to be one of the best in Europe. We have a marvellous team available 24 hours a day and backed by a highly motivated support staff - 28,000 patients can testify to that. Does this count for nothing except a bark from the Medical Association, which once commanded the respect of everybody - but Mr Mintoff. Chuck it MAM.

You would be better advised to discover what led one of your general practitioners to visit a tourist patient at a hotel and charge the handsome sum of Lm30 for his call. It is this sort of daylight robbery that gives the medical profession a bad name, that should exercise your mind, that should cause you to remind doctors that "cowboys'" fees are for cowboys. It is this daylight robbery that should depress you, not the impressive qualities of Mr Manché.

Sod's law operating the way it does, the patient also had her bag snitched in a main street in Sliema, Dingli Street, but that is another story. Expensive medical attention and theft must have made her Malta experience memorable, for the wrong reasons, alas.

Nor is this the first time that patients from overseas have become croppers. There was a whole to-do over excessive charges raised by a private hospital and one of its doctors, not so long ago. It is clear that some of MAM's members never learn, whereas some of their patients have learned all too well, the hard way.

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