Updated | Doctors put industrial action 'on hold'

After a two-hour meeting on Monday failed to result in breakthrough, the union has said it would be putting directives on hold as a gesture of goodwill

Health Minister Chris Fearne
Health Minister Chris Fearne

The Medical Associations of Malta (MAM) has put directives planned for this Thursday and Friday on hold, as a gesture of goodwill as the union continues negotiations with the government.

The MAM is objecting to the concession agreement that saw three public hospitals being transferred to Vitals Global Healthcare, a private company. This concession is now being transferred by Vitals to American company Steward Healthcare.

"While it appears that progress has been registered in principle, [MAM] is looking forward to the next meeting on Wednesday with the hope that both sides can continue working to reach a satisfactory conclusion," read a brief statement from MAM.

Despite both sides stating that talks have been positive, a two-hour meeting between the government and the doctors' union yesterday failed to resolve the impasse over the hospitals privatisation.

"The meeting was positive but we have not yet reached an agreement," Fearne told MaltaToday on Monday evening.

The minister did not want to say what the unresolved issues were, insisting he did not want to prejudge discussions that will continue later this week.

"It would not be prudent for me to point out particular issues because there has been goodwill from all sides and we agreed to meet again on Wednesday or Thursday," Fearne said.

Earlier on Monday, MAM said it had been against the hospitals deal since March 2015. It explained that failure to respect the "safety net measures" agreed with the government had led doctors to the current dispute.

Doctors went on a one-day strike this month and MAM's council approved a resolution to proceed with industrial action this Thursday and Friday should the meeting with the Health Ministry result in a stalemate.

Asked whether the government has shown MAM the uncensored contract signed with Vitals, Fearne said union officials asked for a particular document on Monday and this was shown to them. He did not elaborate.


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