Doctors' union denies some consultants not giving enough

Doctors' union denies some consultants not giving enough

Doctors are offended by Social Policy Minister John Dalli's claim that some consultants are not pulling their weight.

"I categorically deny this," the president of the Medical Association of Malta, Martin Balzan said.

The comment was made by Mr Dalli during a business breakfast on Tuesday. Speaking about the importance of having a "full service" hospital, he said: "I cannot have a situation where I have a team of five or six consultants and when you take everything into consideration you would find that their output is of one full-timer".

Dr Balzan said this was far from the truth because, despite the waiting lists, the total output of consultants was great. The 50-odd consultants working within the surgical departments still managed some 35,000 operations a year.

He said it was unfair to blame the waiting lists on consultants, after a damning report by the Ombudsman recently pointed an accusing finger at them, saying they maintain a stranglehold on the way operations are scheduled.

It was management's duty to address the situation, said Dr Balzan, adding that surgeons' requests for operating time exceed the available slots in the theatres in use.

Mr Dalli himself has admitted that 13 operating rooms in Mater Dei Hospital remain unused.

"It is the system that needs changing and it is up to management to do this," Dr Balzan said, highlighting the shortage of support staff as a contributing factor.

During the business breakfast, Mr Dalli also said that just two consultants opted for the clause in the collective agreement which binds them to work exclusively for the government.

This figure was contradicted by the MAM which said it was informed that at least 30 doctors opted not to do private practice in order to focus solely on their work within the public sector.

Dr Balzan said Mr Dalli might have been referring to the number of consultants working within the surgical department who opted for the scheme.

Although The Times asked a spokesman for Mr Dalli to clarify this, no reply was forthcoming yesterday. However, last July, Mr Dalli had said that 35 of the 40 consultants who opted for the scheme had not worked privately beforehand. There are about 180 consultants in the public sector.

The collective agreement signed at the end of 2007 gave them a big pay rise, with those forfeiting private practice set to earn more than double their salary, a rise from €30,307 in 2007 to just over €65,222 in 2010.

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