Doctors’ union suspends industrial action at health centres

Medical Association of Malta postponing proposed industrial action by one week after new set of guidelines on house visits were issued

The Medical Association of Malta has directed health centre doctors to continue to provide home visits according to an established policy and is postponing a proposed industrial action by one week.

According to the doctors’ union, the decision to suspend an industrial action at health centres by one week was “a gesture of goodwill”.

“The Medical Association of Malta notes with satisfaction the positive statement made by the management of the health centres, thanking health centre doctors for their service and publicly declaring that there exists a policy of when and how home visits are accepted and prioritized,” MAM president Martin Balzan said.

“MAM is hoping that in this week primary health centre management clearly explains this policy to the general public and how its application is in the interest of an efficient health service to the benefit of all especially in the winter months.”

General practitioners have now been provided with a new set of guidelines regulating the management of house visit requests. The set of guidelines drawn up however do not bind in any way the GP from taking a justified decision based on his own professional judgement.

The house visit requests at all time will be vetted by a GP or trainee who will decide whether the request merits a house visit or any other form of intervention. However, the GPs were also advised that requests for home visits should definitely be accepted in the following cases: bed-bound patients; deceased person; combination of fever and rash of recent onset; high dependency individuals; and immunocompromised individuals.

The GPs have also been guided on the list of case which would normally require urgent transfer to hospital. In such cases, the doctor receiving the call for the house visit shall request an ambulance before leaving for the house call.

Requests for home visit which may be regarded as unnecessary include minor symptoms of childhood such as mild fevers, coughs and colds, earache, diarrhea/vomiting and minor cases of abdominal pain; ambulant patients with minor problems such as cough, sore throat, influenza, back pain, constipation, abdominal pain, joint pains and general malaise.

The GPs have also been advised that request for home visits should definitely be refused when cases include blood letting in ambulant individuals and sick leave certification where patients are ambulant. Patients coming to a health centre requiring sick leave certificate will be examined by a GP, who on his discretion will issue the required certificate.

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