MAM response to Malta Today - 3/8/2005

link to article in Malta Today

Defending doctors

In last Sunday’s edition of your newspaper a correspondent wrote an article about “a revered surgeon being hit below the belt” by colleagues. This article was even graced by a colour picture of the surgeon concerned, but the “friends of the charismatic surgeon” making this statement were shrouded by editorial anonymity.
While thanking your columnist for his attention to our press releases, it appears that his arguments are based on the “spin” from the government’s side which has introduced an emotional angle to the argument. Of course this smokescreen seems to be their only form of defence, as legally they do not have a leg to stand on!
Let MAM assure your correspondent and your readers that we wholeheartedly endorse the praise that has been expressed about the individual concerned without any reservations. Also, it has most definitely never been the intention for MAM to lobby to reduce his pay.
The real issue is that doctors in the Health service are grossly underpaid but still deliver an excellent service. This is borne out by the excellent outcomes of all medical interventions (we rank amongst the highest in the world) and by persistently high patient satisfaction rates. Again a blanket accusation by your correspondent accusing other doctors of “pompous behaviour” was not backed up by any evidence.
Your correspondent mentions the fact that other surgeons are allowed to do private practice as a justification for the low salary paid to government doctors. Let us assure your readers that private practice is no “gold mine” and it demands a lot of hard work and long hours, often at unsociable times. Doctors are often obliged to do private practice because their salary is not enough to live on. What doctors do after their hours of government is their own affair and should have no bearing on their government salary.
There is already a “brain drain” of young doctors emigrating and getting far superior jobs and conditions of work abroad. This tide can only be stemmed by improving doctor’s conditions. The health of the nation can only be maintained by the best medical minds. The Government cannot escape from the fact that it has to give doctors better conditions and continue the trend that, so far, has only been offered to one individual.

Stephen Fava
Medical Association of Malta

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