MAM condemns removal of public health consultant who recommended caution on schools re-opening

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A public health consultant responsible for the coordination of the Covid-19 response team who had recommended caution on the consequences of re-opening schools has been dismissed, the Medical Association of Malta said, condemning the removal “without reservations”.

Newsbook.com.mt has learnt that the unnamed consultant is Kenneth Grech.

Sources have told this newsroom that Grech received a call from the Health Ministry informing him that he would be redeployed. Grech was asked to show up at the ministry for another job.

This newsroom has sent questions to the health ministry inquiring about Grech’s dismissal.

In a statement on Monday morning, MAM said that the public health consultant had the courage to urge caution.

The association will convene in the evening to evaluate the situation before deciding what action to take.

Medical professionals expressed their anger over the incident when speaking to Newsbook.com.mt. Some have referred to the MAM meeting which will be convened on Monday evening saying that they expect clear directives which could possibly include industrial action.

Independent candidate Arnold Cassola described Grech as the right-hand man of the Superintendent of Public Health Professor Charmaine Gauci. He accused Education Minister Justyne Caruana of ignoring Dr Grech’s advice.

In a statement on Monday, Cassola urged Professor Gauci to put her foot down and take a clear stand in favour of Dr Grech’s reinstatement.

“This is a very serious matter. It is our nation’s health that is at stake,” Cassola stated.

Opposition leader Bernard Grech reacts to the news
Watch: Opposition leader accuses PM of ignoring experts’ advice

Secretariat for Catholic Education and the Church Schools Association request immediate reinstatement

The Secretariat for Catholic Education and the Church Schools Association have requested the immediate reinstatement of Dr Kenneth Grech as head of the Covid-19 response team in the best interest of all.

In a statement on Monday afternoon, the secretariat and the association expressed their dismay.

“Since the start of the pandemic, Dr Grech, in his official capacity and along with his colleagues, has given very valid advice when considering whether or not to physically welcome students, educators and staff in schools. Dr Grech has been rendering a sterling service as coordinator of the COVID-19 team and always sought to safeguard public health,” the statement reads.

This confirms what we said – MUT

The Malta Union of Teachers also condemned the dismissal saying that the episode confirms what it said last week about the government being cautioned on the reopening of schools given the current surge in Covid-19 infections.

Both MUT and the Union of Professional Educators have condemned the dismissal and expressed their support.

The MUT said that it is concerned with the latest updates as it urged the government to review its position and allow all professionals especially health care experts to perform their duties without undue pressure.

On the other hand, the UPE underlined that it has not yet endorsed the “backdoor deal” reached between MUT and the government on Friday due to lack of details.

The two-day strike announced by MUT and supported by UPE had been prompted by the government’s refusal to move classes online after being cautioned about reopening. It came to an end after the government called the union in for a meeting.

‘The government should not interfere with the advice given by medical professionals, as such interference could potentially cause coronavirus cases to spike unnecessarily,’ the UPE said.

The Independent Schools Association also expressed its concern and disappointment at the news of Grech’s redeployment.

“Dr Grech has worked tirelessly as coordinator of the COVID-19 Team and has been instrumental in the fight against the COVID-19 virus,” the ISA said.

The association reiterated its need for independent unbiased medical opinion which informs public debate. It joined in the call on the government to revise its position and repeal its decision.

Unacceptable behaviour – Repubblika

Rule of law NGO, Repubblika, has condemned the incident saying it is unacceptable.

The organisation expressed its shock over the dismissal of Kenneth Grech who was coordinating the coronavirus response team.

“It is unacceptable for a medical consultant to be removed from his post after he has advised the government in accordance to his conscience and in line with the oath he took when he became a doctor,” the NGO said. It added that Grech should not be dismissed for fulfilling his obligations.

Repubblika called on the government to give a clear explanation to the public on the decision taken against Grech.

‘Short-sighted populism’

The association expressed its disappointment at the same ‘reckless’ mistakes based on ‘short-sighted populism’ rather than the advice of medical experts.

MAM referred to the mass event for the elderly in San Ġwann, the music concert held in Valletta and the various New Year’s Eve events as well as other private parties in Gozo during the festive period that have led to a surge in coronavirus cases.

It was also noted that regular flights to the UK remain operational despite claims to the contrary. Malta suspended flights to and from the UK over the emergence of the new coronavirus strain. Repatriation flights are being operated and those who arrive from the UK will be in mandatory quarantine.

The association said it is aware of a number of positive cases of individuals arriving from the UK. “Analysis for variants is awaited,” it said.

The government should continue to support the tourist industry financially rather than encourage behaviours which place people’s lives at risk, the association remarked.

“Only people out of their senses would considering issuing vouchers at this stage. A classic case of “biting your nose to spite your face”,” the association said.

Doctors warned that with more than 100 cases per day being registered, there is a high risk of overwhelming the healthcare system.

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