The Medical Association of Malta has announced a range of industrial action, starting on Thursday in protest over the government's handling of the COVID-19 situation. 

The union has been protesting after the government failed to immediately stop mass events, blaming them for a spike in COVID-19 cases.

On Thursday it described measures announced by the government on that day to limit attendance as ‘too little, too late’.

Talks held with Health Minister Chris Fearne led to industrial action being suspended three days ago, but on Wednesday the union said its council had unanimously agreed to issue the following directives:


Mater Dei Hospital

  • 1) From Thursday, all Mater Dei outpatients appointments are postponed. This directive will remain in force for one week.
  • 2) All elective surgery will be postponed from Thursday. All urgent and cancer surgery is exempt from this directive.
  • 3) All elective ultrasound lists are postponed from Thursday. This directive will remain in force for one week.
  • 4) All doctors in the Accident and Emergency Department are exempt from directives.
  • 5) All vulnerable doctors are to avoid frontline work and to report for administrative or telephone duties.

Health Centres

  • 1) All 42 Community Clinics will remain closed and no General Practitioners will attend. This directive will remain in force for one week.
  • 2) All Health Centres will set up a triage desk which will be manned by a doctor at all times.
  • 3) On Saturday, August 8 and Sunday, August 9, only the Health Centres in Mosta, Floriana, Paola and Rabat (Gozo) will open. All doctors assigned to satellite Health Centres are to report to the main Health Centres on these days.
  • 4) All doctors are to wear PPE in all clinical areas.
  • 5) All diabetic and medical consultant clinic appointments will be postponed or held by telephone.
  • 6) All vulnerable doctors are to avoid frontline work and to report for administrative or telephone duties.

Gozo

  • 1) From Thursday, August 6, all Gozo General Hospital outpatients appointments are postponed. This directive will remain in force for one week.
  • (Doctors working in Oncology, psychiatry, geriatrics and paediatrics are exempt)
  • 2) All Community Clinics (bereġ) will remain closed.
  • 3) All patients will be triaged at the Rabat Health Centre. Non urgent appointments will be postponed.

Doctors at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre, Mount Carmel Hospital and community psychiatry, Public Health doctors and doctors working in swabbing centres, Karen Grech Hospital, Geriatrics and Rehabilitation Medicine and Obstetric outpatients (Not gynaecology) are exempt from the directives.

The MAM said it is encouraging doctors to apply to work some sessions in swabbing and contact tracing in order to keep up with demand.

Mass events must be stopped ‘immediately’

In a statement issued with the directives, the union said the industrial action will continue until Wednesday, August 12.

Should a satisfactory agreement not be reached, it may extend the duration and/or introduce new directives.

“Malta is currently in the thick of a new epidemic caused by mass events which is leading to around 15 new cases per day amongst the local population, and has already caused Malta to be blacklisted by four EU countries. Rather than control the epidemic the government of Malta, against the advice of the superintendent of public health has decided to forge ahead with multiple mass events including those for thousands of people. Furthermore, parties and standing up events similar to the party at Radisson can still go ahead. What all the other EU countries are strictly prohibiting, our authorities are doing exactly the opposite,” the union said,

It described the guidelines issued by the government last Thursday as “very basic, with many loopholes, based on self-assessments,” and said enforcement to date has been weak.

“These parties carry a grave risk of a large spike in cases, especially amongst vulnerable groups posing unnecessary risks to healthcare professionals. Many more EU countries may decide to blacklist Malta if the numbers continue to increase, further damaging the economy.

“All mass events should be stopped immediately,” the MAM said. 

Directives updated

Later on Wednesday, as the doctors' action loomed with no reaction from government, the MAM said it had made some changes to its directives. These included:

  • Patients who have had their outpatients appointment cancelled may be contacted by phone by the respective Medical team.
  • Cardiology procedures which are considered urgent or to be performed on patients at high risk should not be cancelled.
  • Anticoagulation clinics are exempted from directive and shall take place normally.
  • Elective surgeries to be performed in Gozo General Hospital shall be postponed except for urgent surgery and surgery for cancer.
  • Elective procedures at all Health Centres shall be cancelled.

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