Public health consultant Kenneth Grech will be back with the COVID-19 response team once his work on the National Health Strategy is completed, Times of Malta can confirm, though the government has yet to say when this will happen. 

Grech, a consultant and lecturer who has in recent months served as one of public health chief Charmaine Gauci's right-hand men, was told over the weekend that his services within the response team were no longer needed. Instead, he would be redeployed to work on the National Health Strategy. 

The decision sparked widespread outrage, with doctors even declaring an industrial dispute over the matter and gave notice of “demonstrative action” starting Thursday. 

But Times of Malta is informed the Medical Association of Malta met with the Health Ministry on Wednesday to discuss the matter. The action was subsequently called off after the doctors were given assurances Grech would be returning to his post once work on the strategy is done. 

It remains unclear, however, when this will be and whether his COVID-19 expertise would still be needed by the time he concludes work on the strategy. 

Contacted for a comment, a health ministry spokesperson said: "Kenneth Grech was never dismissed. As public health consultant he was asked by the chief medical officer to work on the national health strategy. Once this strategy is completed, Grech will continue to work within his capacity of public health consultant, including work related to COVID-19."

Times of Malta has asked for more specific timelines but these have yet to be provided. 

Grech is understood to have advised the government as well as other education stakeholders to keep schools closed following the Christmas holidays. Sources told Times of Malta that he emailed Frank Fabri, the permanent secretary of the education ministry, as well as representatives of Malta’s church schools with the advice last week.

This information was eventually leaked to the teachers’ union, which called a strike after the government refused to order schools to stay shut and revert to online lessons.  That strike was called off on Friday evening and schools reopened on Monday morning.

 

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