There will be no further industrial action by doctors at least until the beginning of next week, when meetings between the Medical Association of Malta and the government are set to continue.

Following a one-day strike on Tuesday as a result of a dispute between the MAM and the government, which the union said was totally supported by the doctors at the hospitals affected by the privatisation, the two are now back at the discussion table.

The MAM resorted to industrial action in protest at the way St Luke’s, Karin Grech and the Gozo General hospitals were being transferred to Steward Health Care from Vitals Global Healthcare. Although it agreed in principle with a public-private-partnership for the hospitals, it believes management and leadership should remain in the hands of the government.

MAM is arguing that the government gave its consent to the transfer without providing the association with a six weeks’ notice, in breach of the collective agreement.

Read: Privatisation of healthcare - Martin Balzan

Contacted following a meeting with the government this afternoon, general secretary Martin Balzan said MAM had presented a proposal in line with its principles.

“The government promised to evaluate the proposal and we will have another meeting next week,” Dr Balzan said, adding that he could not divulge more information as it could compromise negotiations.

“If the discussions fail, we will consider any action we feel is appropriate. But there will be no further industrial action until the meeting at the beginning of next week.”

Earlier today, the Prime Minister said he was confident talks between the government and doctors will take a positive turn in the coming days.

Before the meeting, Dr Balzan told Times of Malta that MAM will continue to insist with the government that “short-term pain was better than long-term loss”.

READ: MAM still in the dark on hospitals’ transfer to Steward Healthcare

“Our position hasn’t changed – we showed our strength and we are now back to the negotiating table. The need to repeat a strike in the future will be determined by the direction of the negotiations, and there are also other legal options we can resort to,” Dr Balzan said, adding that MAM intended to “exhausting all options and leave no stone unturned”.

The MAM on Wednesday pointed out that during Tuesday’s industrial action, all doctors at the Gozo Health centres, the Gozo General Hospital, Dermatology Department at Boffa Hospital, Karin Grech Hospital, and Psychiatry Department followed its directives.

 “These are the hospitals currently affected by the proposed transfer, and MAM thanks members for sending such a clear message of support.”

 MAM insisted that all possible future privatisations, including that of Mater Dei Hospital were governed by the same clause requiring six weeks of discussion with the doctors. “It is indeed a bad omen from the government side when it goes about these deals in a secretive way,” Dr Balzan said.

MAM apologised for the inconvenience caused to patients and thanked those who understood its message.

 It remained hopeful the government would take the right decisions in the long-term interest of the country, hoping that future decisions in health care were taken in “more transparent ways, rather than behind the back of patients and health care professionals”.

Meanwhile, the Alliance for Mental Health reiterated its stand against the privatisation of health care services.

The A4MH, which represents mental health sector stakeholders, believes that services run for profit can never meet the real, enduring needs of people with chronic illness, including chronic mental illness.

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