The Malta Independent 21 January 2021, Thursday

MAM declares industrial dispute over redeployment of COVID-19 coordinator

Tuesday, 12 January 2021, 08:43 Last update: about 8 days ago

The Medical Association of Malta on Tuesday registered an industrial dispute with the government saying the transfer of a public health consultant for expressing his professional judgement “is unacceptable”.

The decision was taken by the union on Monday evening following a meeting of the executive committee.

MAM gave notice of “demonstrative action” starting Thursday escalating on January 18.

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Consultant Kenneth Grech was told over the weekend that his services within the COVID-19 response team were no longer needed and that he would be redeployed.

Grech was public health chief Charmaine Gauci's right-hand man. During the pandemic he has overseen contact tracing, swabbing hubs, quarantine issues and other major national efforts to battle the virus.

He is understood to have advised the Education Ministry to keep schools closed following the Christmas holidays as the number of Covid-19 cases was on the rise.

The Health Ministry has denied any link, saying Grech was being redeployed to work on Malta's national health strategy. 

MAM declared the dispute in a letter to Health Ministry’s permanent secretary saying doctors must be free to express their professional opinion without intimidation or fear of retribution.

“It is the ethical duty of each doctor to give the best possible medical advice. The removal of this consultant is of concern to all professionals in all grades. Patients must know that medical advice is based on evidence and given in their best interests.”

The impression given by the ministry that only one individual can work on EU projects is misleading and unfair to the doctors who are actually already doing this work, MAM said.

MAM has also requested an urgent meeting with the minister.

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