St Philip's Hospital CEO Frank Portelli has urged the government to dissolve the Medical Council for failing to conclude an inquiry involving him within the legally-required two-year timeframe.

In a letter to Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Social Policy Minister John Dalli, Dr Portelli said the Medical Council had officially opened the inquiry into his case on July 15, 2005, and that, according to the Healthcare Professions Act, it had to conclude this within two years.

He said that in terms of another provision of the same act, the President, acting on the advice of the minister, may order an inquiry into the operations of the Medical Council and, based on its outcome, dissolve it and set up a three-member council until another council is appointed.

Dr Portelli is contesting a recent decision by the Malta Medical Council which ordered him to pay a €10,000 fine and stated that he would be struck off the medical register if he failed to do so by October 1.

The Medical Council considered a letter written by Dr Portelli on July 16, 2003, as defamatory with regard to Dr Louis Buhagiar.

Dr Portelli insisted that since he wrote the letter in his capacity as CEO of St Philip's Hospital - not as a doctor - the Medical Council had no jurisdiction.

In this letter, Dr Portelli had informed Dr Buhagiar that he was being suspended from St Philip's Hospital because of repeated complaints he had received about the professional fees Dr Buhagiar was charging patients.

Dr Portelli is appealing against the Medical Council's judgment in the First Hall of the Civil Court.

He is asking the court to annul the Medical Council's decision, adding that the fact that the CEO of St Philip's Hospital was also a doctor was just "co-incidental".

In his appeal, Dr Portelli is also claiming breach of his fundamental human right to freedom of expression and breach of his right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time.

Dr Portelli is insisting that the president of the Medical Council, who signed the decision, must resign "because she is a political appointee and has failed to represent the Prime Minister in a fair manner".

Referring to a doctor who complained that St Philip's Hospital had not referred private patients to him, Dr Portelli also said that he had expected anyone with a potential conflict of interest on the Medical Council to disqualify himself from hearing a particular case. Dr Portelli insisted that the Medical Council's aim should be to protect patients from "avaricious doctors".

He added the Medical Council is "in serious danger of becoming a conspiracy against the laity".

"The Medical Council is showing that self-regulation is not working in the patients' interest and should have more members representing patients," Dr Portelli said.

mxuereb@timesofmalta.com

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