Brain Drain at the Health Centres - MAM (Sunday Times - 8/8/2005

1. Letter in Sunday Times
link to article in The TIMES

General Practitioner Training Scheme will lead to a higher shortage of doctors - MAM
The General Practitioner Training Scheme, which is expected to start "imminently", will lead to a higher shortage of doctors, Medical Association of Malta general secretary Martin Balzan said.

Dr Balzan said the new three-year training course, which will lead to a specialist certification in general practice, was welcomed by the association. However, he added, this would lead to a further shortage of doctors than was suffered at the moment.

During a press conference last week, Dr Balzan said the local health sector was suffering from a "brain drain", with the worst affected being Health Centres. In fact, he said, there were around 65 missing doctors in Maltese Health Centres.

This was rebutted by the Health Division, which denied that the number of missing doctors was 65. A spokesman told The Times that there were currently 61 full-time general practitioners; eight GPs working on a half-time basis; another two working on three quarters time plus another eight medical officers on rotation work.

But Dr Balzan stood his ground and said that although the numbers provided by the Health Division were correct, the number of missing doctors still amounted to around 65.

He explained that when the asso-ciation worked out the number of missing doctors, it kept the GP training scheme in mind, stressing that once this started there would be a need for tutors - while the trainees doing the course would have to work under supervision.

Dr Balzan also retained the association's claim that the introduction of the appointment system at District Health Centres (known as Bereg) was introduced because of the shortage of doctors. He said doctors were being faced with around 80 patients an hour.

"With the appointment system a doctor sees a patient every four minutes," he said, adding that although this was not enough, it was the best under the circumstances.

With regard to the current claimed discrimination between two cardiac surgeons, Dr Balzan said the association was awaiting a legal reply from Government. Last month a letter was sent to Dr Godwin Grima, the principal permanent secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister, and director general of health, Ray Busuttil, requesting a remedy in the "existent discrimination" between two surgeons. The legal letter was sent on behalf of cardiac surgeon Walter Busuttil and the MAM.

The letter claimed that Mr Busuttil was being discriminated against when he was offered a less favourable salary and working conditions when compared to Alex Manche's. It said both were doing the same work.

"We want the government to give a legal answer both in the public interest and in the interest of transparency," he said.

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