Telemedicine doctors forced to work from government construction site

Tista taqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti.

Doctors and GP trainees offering patient consultation through the government’s online telemedicine service have been forced to work from a construction site in Siġġiewi, raising questions about workplace safety and the reasons behind the hurried move.

Sources who spoke to The Shift on condition of anonymity described how practitioners were hurriedly moved from their previous offices at the Mosta Technopark to a semi-basement office in the middle of an under-construction housing complex at Triq Dun Manwel Dimech, Siġġiewi.

The telemedicine service was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way for clients to receive consultations from doctors without leaving their homes.

In a speech for the 2023 Budget last October, Health Minister Chris Fearne claimed the service would be administered from the new offices in Siġġiewi from this year.

Sources said the practitioners, assigned telemedicine duty on rotation, were hurriedly moved to the assigned offices last week.

They said the offices “are bare, almost in shell form”, lying in the middle of an active construction site and are disconnected from mains water and electricity, requiring a generator and a water tank as substitutes.

They raised safety concerns, saying practitioners must walk through a construction site to get to their workplace.

The site includes more than 80 apartments and is still under construction.

The sources said that although long-rumoured, the move was so sudden that bathrooms at the new offices had not yet installed toilet seats.

Around eight practitioners use the semi-basement offices with a supporting staff of clerks, nurses, secretaries and security. Clients using the telemedicine service do not visit the offices in person.

A visit by The Shift confirmed the semi-basement offices at Triq Dun Manwel Dimech form part of a larger complex of more than 80 apartments still under construction.

Entrance to the site was unencumbered despite mounds of construction material, skips containing construction waste and missing aperture furnishings.

Workers on site confirmed a “doctor’s office” and “government offices” were operational in the semi-basement portion of the complex but could not offer more information, partially due to a language barrier.

While the government has not officially announced the opening of the new offices, a health ministry spokesperson confirmed the move and claimed the new offices “are in a finished state with running water and electricity services”.

The spokesperson said the premises were “handed over to Primary HealthCare (Ministry for Health) through a Memorandum of Understanding with [state investment company] Malita Investments plc, who is the emphyteuta of this government-owned building”.

The Shift also asked Health Minister Chris Fearne for an official explanation for the hurried move and the sub-par working conditions, but no reply was received.

A controversial building

A 2019 planning permit (PA/358/19) for the building complex details 80 housing units, including apartments, maisonettes and penthouses, 20 sheltered housing units for the elderly and day centres for children and persons with a disability. It does not mention health ministry offices.

The approved permit was submitted by Anthony Muscat, former CEO of Housing Maintenance and Embellishment Co Ltd, the government company overseeing maintenance requirements at social housing estates.

The company falls under the remit of Social Housing Minister Roderick Galdes.

In 2022, the National Audit Office found the company was led by amateur management, leading to suspicions of gross mismanagement and abuse of public funds, concluding that “deficiencies were part of the modus operandi of the same company”.

In the same year, Anthony Muscat was also one of five men accused of putting Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder middleman, Melvin Theuma, on the government payroll through a phantom job at the same company.

In 2019, the Siġġiewi Local Council launched an appeals process on the development permit at the Environment and Planning Tribunal.

The local council argued the development was excessive for the context, negatively impacting the area. The EPRT turned down the appeal, allowing for the complex’s construction.

                           

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2 Comments
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saviour mamo
saviour mamo
4 months ago

A visit by safety officers at the site concerned is solicited.

Joseph
Joseph
4 months ago

Trid tara jekk tasalx is-siggiewi l’ewwel.

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