The regulator of the medical profession in Malta, The Medical Council, has sent an unprecedented and “bizarre” letter to all Maltese-registered doctors and dentists, complaining that it can’t cope with all the work it has, that it’s severely underfunded and above all, that its members are either not being paid by the government or are being underpaid for “the long hours” they spend dealing with council issues.
The letter, written by council registrar Arthur Camilleri on behalf of the government-appointed President Simon Micallef Stafrace and council members, gives a general overview of the work of the Medical Council and the work being carried out by council members.
Emphasizing the “endless hours of discussions and meetings” and “time-consuming discussions and decisions,” the council wrote that it was “disappointed to report that council members were, for most of them, left unpaid for all the work they carried out and they did so out of respect to professional peers and the council’s obligations to the general public”.
According to the letter, in some places almost indecipherable due to frequent grammatical errors, the council even paused its work for several months “until proper discussions (on payment) materialised” and “the matter has been partially tackled and we are being told those decent payments will be affected,” the registrar wrote.
Complaining that the council’s workload has increased significantly over the past few years, including through a fortnightly, at least, complaint from a member of the public about some member of the profession, the registrar wrote that the current legislative framework underpinning the functions of the Medical Council “is now insufficient to meet demands” and necessitates changes.
“Unless the legal framework is re-engineered, we feel that regulatory councils are ill-equipped to meet the legal demands and proper upkeep of both dental and medical professions,” the registrar wrote.
Several medical professionals who contacted The Shift described the Medical Council’s letter as “unusual” and “confusing”.
“We cannot really understand the scope of the letter when the Medical Council’s function is just to act as the regulator of our profession and is led by an OPM appointee. Their complaints should not be addressed to us but to the authorities,” a senior medical professional told The Shift.
Another said that the letter is proof, if it was still necessary, of how much “the Medical Council is out of tune with the international developments of the medical profession”.
The Medical Council, appointed through the Health Care Professionals Act, is composed of 12 members, half of which are appointed by the government or ostensibly ‘independent’ authorities, while the rest are elected by medical professionals.
Currently, the council is led by lawyer Simon Micallef Stafrace – the son of a former Labour Minister, who was appointed directly by Prime Minister Robert Abela.
Although the council is also responsible for ethical standards within the medical profession, it has rarely taken any drastic decision against any doctor or dentist.