New Parliamentary Secretary Chris Fearne said today that he will not be seeing new patients, whether privately or at Mater Dei Hospital, other than four acute cases which he had started treating before being informed of his new appointment.

The announcement was made in the afternoon after Times of Malta reported in the morning that he would continue to see his patients at Mater Dei Hospital but would not be paid for the service.

The government said in a statement that arrangement have been taken in hand for the engagement of another consultant to take over from Mr Fearne.

Mr Fearne will also relinquish his post as Clinical Chairman of the Department of Surgery and he will step down from the chairmanship of the parliamentary Foreign and European Affairs Committee to focus fully on health.

The ministerial code of ethics does not permit Cabinet members to retain their former jobs, even if unpaid.

Controversy had surrounded Parliamentary Secretary for the Elderly Franco Mercieca, an ophthalmic surgeon, after it became known he was still practising his profession. Eventually, he was granted a waiver from the code and allowed to see patients at Mater Dei, free of charge. He has now resigned his Cabinet post to pursue his profession.

Contacted yesterday by Times of Malta, Dr Fearne said that as from Saturday he had stopped seeing patients in private hospitals and clinics.

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