Doctors' union challenges official brain drain figures

Doctors' union challenges official brain drain figures

The brain drain among doctors is worse than figures released in Parliament last week show, the Medical Association of Malta insisted yesterday.

The MAM said 40 per cent of newly-graduated doctors will be leaving Malta this year and the country was running the risk of losing 30 other young doctors and 15 final-year students as from next month. In addition, 22 out of the 60 doctors who graduated last year have also left Malta, it added.

These figures do not tally with those given by Social Policy Minister John Dalli in Parliament last week. Figures released in reply to parliamentary questions show that 13 doctors left the island between 2003 and last year.

The doctors' union is insisting that 94 of the doctors who graduated in the period under review actually left the island. The figures, MAM president Martin Balzan pointed out, also include foreign students who graduated in Malta and did not work here, but their numbers were not substantial.

He pointed out that doctors who leave the island remain on the Medical Council's register, giving the false impression that they are still in Malta even though they do not work here.

The association voiced disappointment that the health authorities "failed to provide" Mr Dalli with the correct figures.

"There are indeed a significant number of young medical graduates who have continued to leave our shores and the figures quoted in Parliament clearly do not include doctors on emigration leave or on indefinite unpaid study leave," Dr Balzan said.

He said the association had already called on the Heath Division to improve the collection of data and ensure that doctors who have long left Malta do not continue to appear on the division's books.

When contacted, Dr Balzan said shortages of doctors were felt across the board in hospital. "We are definitely under in all departments," he said, adding that it was important for more doctors to decide to stay in Malta.

In a reaction to the MAM' comments, the ministry stuck to its figures. Mr Dalli was asked how many doctors graduated from the university in the past five years and are still employed within the public sector and how many renewed their Medical Council licence this year.

The ministry said the statistics include doctors who are on some form of leave because they still form part of the public sector. While the details given by the MAM were interesting, they were not relevant to the questions asked in Parliament, the ministry argued.

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