link to article in The TIMES
Leo Said, MD, Kleve, Germany.
It was highly interesting, and at the same time in a way perturbing, for me to read the reports in The Times (July 19 and 20) as well as the editorial (July 20).
I agree without any reservations with the Medical Association of Malta when it says that doctors in Malta are on the whole underpaid (July 19).
The rest of the issue under discussion is actually a reflection of the ambiguous status of hospital doctors in Malta.
It is impossible for outsiders, regardless of whether they might be medical professionals themselves or not, to understand and judge the issue, without having knowledge of the respective contract modalities.
It is definitely and undoubtedly licit for the MAM to now argue on the basis of EU law, EU regulations and EU guidelines and I would not hesitate to do so myself.
From what I read, I understand however that Alex Manché has been employed by the Maltese government for over 10 years. Mr Manché therefore took up his appointment in Malta long before EU jurisdiction could be applied in Malta.
It would have been fair towards readers of The Times if more details of Mr Manché's contract with the Maltese government, other than his tax-free salary, would have been made public. Important points would be the length of the original contract and the modalities for mutual optional extension, or renewal, of contract.
Reading the editorial, one may understand that Mr Manché does not have any private practice extramural to St Luke's Hospital, which seems to be, and should be, a very valid reason for Mr Manché's higher emoluments.
The MAM has publicly brought a Walter Busuttil into the issue. This gentleman is also listed as a consultant at St Philip's Hospital.
One can therefore ask whether Mr Busuttil ever tried to negotiate terms of work, which would be, or could have been, equivalent to those of Mr Manché. If Mr Busuttil did negotiate with a negative outcome, then one can ask why Mr Busuttil accepted conditions which primarily did not place him on par with Mr Manché. Another question should be whether Mr Busuttil did consult with the MAM at the time of his appointment and why the MAM did not then raise the present problem immediately.
In its arguments, the MAM refers to a collective agreement, to the Public Services Management Code and to the Constitution of Malta.
It is expected that the new hospital, Mater Dei, will become operational in a short time. One has been reading about this hospital being autonomous.
It is quite difficult to envisage how an autonomous hospital will be dependent on medical and paramedical staff who are actually civil servants and therefore ultimately responsible to the Public Service Commission and to the government. Indeed, a strange kind of autonomy for the executive hospital management, which itself might also be at the mercy of political calculations.
Why does the MAM not go other ways? Could MAM officials already be so extensively dependent on the government with regard to the officials' own professional status?