Public health professionals urge minister to appoint ‘qualified’ specialist as director

Malta Association of Public Health Medicine Press object to appointment of dental surgeon as head of disease prevention unit

Healthcare professionals have joined the Medical Association of Malta in urging Health Minister Chris Fearne to reconsider the choice made for the new head of the disease prevention unit.

MAM has recently filed a judicial letter, arguing that the person touted for the post – dental surgeon Paula Vassallo – was not a qualified medical doctor. The health ministry has, on its part, insisted that Vassallo is “amply qualified” for the job. Vassallo would be succeeding Charmaine Gauci.

The Malta Association of Public Health medicine (MAPHM) said it was of the “firm view” that only a medical specialist would be suitable for the job.

“This position requires in-depth and specialised knowledge of communicable disease prevention, surveillance and control including advice, assessment and management of individual patients and groups of patients,” the MAPHM said. “Furthermore, this position requires planning for prevention and disease control as well as decisions on outbreak management, which decisions have a direct impact upon the health of the Maltese population as a whole.”

The MAPHM said that medical specialists in public health medicine were specifically trained in carrying out these roles.

“It is therefore of serious concern to note that the position description for this particular position has been changed and no longer requires the appointee to be a doctor or a medical specialist in public health when the roles and responsibilities are identical to that of the previous incumbent,” the health professionals said.

“In this day and age where specialist medical practice is tightly regulated by national and EU law, the MAPHM calls upon the Government to take the necessary measures to ensure that the medical specialty of public health medicine continues to be duly recognised and that the position of Director of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention is rightly filled by an appropriately qualified and experienced medical specialist in public health.”

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