Updated at 8.45pm
Industrial action is expected at hospitals and health centres next week after talks between the government and the doctors’ union “stalled”.
The Medical Association of Malta met with Health Minister Chris Fearne earlier Friday to discuss concerns over US company Steward Healthcare taking over the running of three State hospitals.
MAM has called on the government to stop Steward from taking over a 30-year concession previously awarded to Vitals Global Healthcare, to run the St Luke’s, Karin Grech, and Gozo General hospitals.
The association said the government had failed to consult it prior to announcing the transfer to Steward which was in breach of the collective agreement. MAM did not say whether industrial action would include strikes.
MAM contends that according to its collective agreement, the government must give it at least six weeks' notice whenever it wanted to contract a private firm to provide free healthcare on its behalf, including outsourced services.
The agreement also said that any instances of outsourcing and public private partnerships had to be discussed in specific meetings for a specific detailed agreement to be reached.
Government challenges MAM stand
The government was less than impressed by the MAM's stand, saying that it had objected to Vitals running the hospitals but was now trying to sop the transfer to Steward, which would mean accepting Vitals.
The MAM, determined to have the last word, said: "This process [of consultation] must occur BEFORE contracts are signed and not AFTER and MAM appeals to the government to respect signed agreements with trade union and be honest in its public statements. These clauses are there to have proper consultation which are healthy in a democracy and to avoid disputes.
"MAM has continued to believe that one must learn from the errors of the Vitals deal which has clearly failed. A fresh consultation process would be in the national interest and assure honest citizens that national funds are spent wisely to offer the best care to patients."