Update 2 | Grech says mental health expert must be reinstated [VIDEO]

Parliamentary Secretary for health Chris Fearne does not commit to confirm whether former Msida mayor Clifton Grima is now to become chief executive of Mount Carmel Hospital.

Dolores Gauci (Photo: Ray Attard)
Dolores Gauci (Photo: Ray Attard)
Chris Fearne on removal of mental health expert Dolores Gauci (Video: Ray Attard)

The Opposition’s spokesperson for health Claudio Grech has criticised the decision to terminate the job of former Mount Carmel chief operations officer, and formerly CEO, Dolores Gauci.

“It’s a mistake… the government should reconsider its position,” Grech said. “It is a pity that a person of such experience has been sidelined.”

Gauci, formerly also CEO of the Richmond Foundation was removed from community health CEO at Mount Carmel Hospital in September 2013, to be replaced by a former Labour mayor of Msida, a lawyer, Clifton Grima.

Gauci had been appointed following a public call and a selection by a panel of experts, while Grech was directly appointed to the position of CEO.

In a reaction, parliamentary secretary Chris Fearne told MaltaToday that the reform of the Mental Health Act required a director for administrative affairs and a clinical director. "We spoke to clinical chairpersons and unions, who advised that there should be one director responsible instead of two. In this change, it was decided to terminate Ms Gauci's role."

Asked whether this meant that Clifton Grima becomes the one director needed, Fearne would not confirm and said that a decision has not been taken yet.

"We are still in the restructuring process."

Regarding the Opposition's claims that Gauci should be reinstated since she was chosen by public call, Fearne only said that Gauci was still on probation, and that her contract could be ended during the probation period as regulated by industrial legislation and public service rules.

Gauci was only informed of the decision to terminate her contract just one day before her probation period expired.

Grech today held a meeting with Mental Health Commissioner John Cachia, asking him to look into the matter. The commissioner said that he would follow up his complaint.

The former secretary of the Richmond Foundation, Holger Saliba, has penned three open letters to the Prime Minister calling in question Gauci’s removal from Mount Carmel.

“The issue at stake is about having the best and most suitable persons at the helm of social and heath entities… deterring mediocrity and promoting hard work, or rather smart work. I am afraid that this recent decision sends the wrong message out there,” Saliba said.

“Once again I ask you to reinstate Dolores Gauci in her role as a COO of Community Mental Health Services. The reasons of her removal are beyond many people’s comprehension and mine.

“Ms Gauci is a smart worker, promotes smart work and challenges mediocrity, vested interests and institutionalisation. Ms Gauci was selected after an open, competitive and transparent recruitment process. It is meritocracy par excellence!”

MUMN reaction

In comments to MaltaToday, MUMN president Paul Pace said that the union was opposed to having two CEOs at Mount Carmel from day one.

Noting that the hospital was managed by one CEO for 18 years, Pace said that the decision by former health minister Godfrey Farrugia was “confusing” and “created a mess.”

“Without entering the merit of whether Dolores Gauci should have been removed or not, it wasn’t healthy having two CEOs.”

Pace added that having two chief officers meant that the two separate sectors “were at loggerheads.”

He said that as a result of Farrugia’s decision, which Pace insisted was taken without consultation, nurses were at a loss because the lines of demarcation were not clear and a result the union had issued two directives.

“Nurses who previously fell under the responsibility of Mount Carmel suddenly fell under the community care sector, however this did not make much sense because if for instance there was a lack of nurses, these could only be replaced by nurses who fell under Mount Carmel’s responsibility.“

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