The doctors’ union council has voted in favour of further and possibly harsher industrial action next week should negotiations with the government fail, the Times of Malta has learnt.
The Medical Association of Malta council unanimously approved a resolution to proceed with further industrial action on Thursday and Friday should a crucial meeting with the Health Ministry on Monday result in a stalemate.
The doctors’ union is at loggerheads with the government over the way St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo hospitals were transferred to Vitals Global Healthcare and how the concession was now being transferred to Steward Health Care.
Apart from complaints over the secrecy shrouding the contracts, the union is insisting 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.
The doctors staged a one-day strike last Tuesday, cancelling 1,800 appointments and bringing most health centres to a halt.
Speaking to Times of Malta on Friday, general secretary Martin Balzan said that the association was contemplating escalating directives, involving more sectors.
This undermined social justice in healthcare
The MAM council passed a resolution on Thursday to write to third parties involved in the hospitals’ concession to explain the current dispute and the consequences should it remain unresolved. The correspondence would be made public, it added.
In the resolution, seen by the Times of Malta, the MAM council noted that documents requested from government as part of the concession transfer last Wednesday had not yet been received.
This, it said, was “despite the promises of transparency on contracts”.
Health Minister Chris Fearne said he had offered to show the doctors’ union all the contracts linked to the hospitals deal.
Following last-ditch meetings on Monday, the government said that while it agreed in principle with the association, it did not accept the MAM’s proposals “either because of lack of intention and/or serious difficulties arising from a contract with inadequate exit clauses”.
The MAM council also did not rule out legal action should the dispute continue.
It said it remained opposed to public private partnerships where public health services were operated by profit-making organisations. This undermined social justice in healthcare, leading to access problems for vulnerable groups.
The doctors’ union also resolved to make sure that hospital management gave fresh appointments to patients affected by the strike by no later than four weeks of last Tuesday’s strike.
Yesterday, the doctors’ union called on Mater Dei management to investigate reports that social media posts were being used to bypass normal channels used to reschedule appointments.
But the hospital denied any wrongdoing, with hospital CEO Ivan Falzon assuring the union that the hospital only had one official channel for booking outpatient appointments.
This was the only channel used for the rescheduling of appointments that were impacted by Tuesday’s strike.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us