Good – a bit of non-Maltese attitude at last

Published: April 22, 2013 at 10:29am
The prime minister with parliamentary secretary Franco Mercieca

The prime minister with parliamentary secretary Franco Mercieca

The Times reports this morning that cabinet member and ophthalmologist Franco Mercieca may be reported to the Medical Council for breaching ethics – medical ethics, that is, and not cabinet ethics.

Eye surgeon Franco Mercieca risks being reported to the Medical Council for a breach of ethics by fellow ophthalmologist Thomas Fenech. Mr Fenech insists that claims made by Mr Mercieca about his own surgical expertise were incorrect, unethical and put fellow ophthalmologists in a bad light.

Mr Mercieca, who is Parliamentary Secretary for Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Active Ageing, had initially justified a Prime Ministerial waiver allowing him to continue practising as a surgeon by claiming he was the “sole ophthalmic surgeon” specialised in certain eye-related operations.

Mr Fenech said he would be discussing a Medical Council motion with association members over the coming days.

37 Comments Comment

  1. M... says:

    I don’t understand why this specialist who has an ‘ology’ to his name does not continue practising the profession in which he’s qualified.

    He certainly is not indispensable in politics: an occupation that can be taken up by anyone and where no formal qualifications are required to practise.

  2. La Redoute says:

    Thomas Fenech has citied medical ethics all along. His objection, as head of the ophthalmology department, is to Franco Mercieca casting aspersions on his colleagues.

    Predictably, the elves and trolls have disingenuously overlooked that significant detail, preferring the myth that Mr Fenech’s is a political move. As the saying has it, ikejlu lil kulhadd b’xibirhom.

    Incidentally, there’s the not so minor detail of Franco Mercieca citing his amazing skills in defence of Emperor Muscat’s waiver, when what he’s really after is defending his lucrative private practice.

    • Min Jaf says:

      Oodles of lucre from private practice apart, being a PS also enables him to jump the Gozo ferry boat queue – though only goodness knows how that unfounded privilege has come about.

  3. Calculator says:

    I’m not sure if Fenech’s point is valid (I lack knowledge of ethics in medicine regarding this particular point), but surely this also reflects Cabinet ethics as well? The two are rather intertwined, with the excuse for a breach of Cabinet ethics resulting in a breach of medical ethics.

    Politics demands a certain commitment that could infringe on the medical profession of the individual, so it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Mercieca just needs to choose between one or the other. He’s already made a fool of himself to anyone with two brain cells in both quarters by his ‘ethics be damned’ approach, so I’d hate to see such a damaging precedent be allowed.

  4. C Portelli says:

    josephmuscatdotcom has made a mockery of cabinet ethics. Basically if you whine enough, you can get away with pretty much whatever you want.

    Let’s hope the Medical Council are made up of different mettle.

  5. Jozef says:

    Our new police commissioner is another one with an interesting CV.

    Torture, cigarette butts, beatings anyone?

  6. Jozef says:


    ‘Surplus’ schools sold to finance interest running into a grand total of 5 million euros eh?

    What about some economic growth? I bet that depends on the ‘commercial and residential’ development brought about by the sale of the schools itself. These people are mad. Criminal.

  7. Athina says:

    People in the public eye have to shoulder responsibility for what they say.

  8. Victor says:

    Most of the comments beneath the report on are just unbelievable.

    I honestly cannot digest the ignorance of those who simply cannot comprehend the real meaning behind this move.

    Is it so difficult to see that with this move Joseph Muscat is endorsing the practice of a part-time government, not to mention the conflict of interest.

    Furthermore, do they realise that this waiver is for Mr. Mercieca to pratice privately? So why do they keep harping about the long waiting list?

    For heaven’s sake is it so difficult to see that this move is AGAINST the people (the tax payer) and not in favour of?

    Regrettably, with such tangible ignorance, Malta does not stand a chance of ever progressing successfully in the right direction.

  9. Doubting Thomas says:

    Daphne: Before commenting it would be better to verify what lies behind certain comments coming from so-called eminent doctors. In Malta, the self-regulation of professions / warrant holders does not work as neither do similar provisions relating to ethics contemplated in various pieces of legislation relating to the local stock exchange, companies or other institutions.

    At least Franco Mercieca had the decency to offer his services at ‘Mater Dei’ for free…. Could it be this the real reason for the reaction to report him to the Medical Council?

    No wonder the MaltaToday polls showed a surge to 59% of Joseph Muscat’s ratings.

    [Daphne – Services offered at the state hospital are always free of charge to patients. Decency has nothing to do with it: Mercieca is on the state payroll as a member of cabinet. It is bad enough he demands the right to moonlight at the state hospital so as not to be struck off the register of surgeons, without expecting to be paid for it as well over and above his cabinet member’s salary. He has to choose: medical practice/surgery or cabinet portfolio? It’s not that tough a choice, especially when the former, in his case, is better paid and he needs to keep his hand in, and he can easily be replaced in the latter with somebody prepared to give his all to the job.]

    • Jozef says:

      We do not require his services ‘for free’.

      And if this had to be the reason he’s been reported to the medical council, it’s a legitimate reaction.

      What next, being blacklisted for refusing to follow his ‘example’ to solve this country’s ‘problems’?

    • Alexia says:

      you’ve made a very good point here. In all western countries a surgeon should tally up a certain number of cases per year as well as accrue CME points.

      Maybe it’s time for the College of Surgeons in Malta to toughen their regulations and discipline anyone who’s not keeping up to scratch.

      Patients’ safety comes before granting favours as a parliamentary secretary for the elderly.

      And yes, the Malta Medical Council should discipline anyone who breaches the stipulated ethics.

    • La Redoute says:

      Mercieca’s being reported to the Medical Council is because, in claiming that his skills are indispensable, he casts aspersions on his colleagues.

      He may be specialised in his particular area, but, as he himself said in his interview with The Sunday Times, no one is indispensable.

      The claim is disingenuous, anyway, because what he’s really interesting in doing is continuing his private practice.

    • Alexander Ball says:

      I can do it for free as well. I’ve been practising. “Nurse, scalpel”. There.

  10. Neil Dent says:

    Saw it earlier. Mr. Fenech spoke clearly and knowledgeably, stating only plain facts, in response to Mr. Mercieca’s straw-clutching and quite uncomfortable interview of yesterday.

    The former appeared infinitely more credible than the latter, why? Because he is.

    Even so, by Mercieca’s own admission on Sunday if accepted at face value, the question of his indispensability in his field (not ‘filled’ as he kept repeating) has been greatly undermined since last week’s news of Muscat’s waiver.

    Joseph Muscat needs a very fast wake-up call. He is under the impression that he can make arbitrary statements and ‘break the rules’, without ever being questioned by any other party in authority. I personally find this possibly his most dangerous trait, further exaggerated since his election victory.

  11. H.P. Baxxter says:

    Does he “risk” being reported or will he be reported? If the former, it’s just more Maltese-speak.

    If not, huzzah for the medicos. They’re the last bulwark of non-Malteseness.

  12. candida says:

    Joseph does not need a wake-up call, he knows very well what he is doing.

    He is the ruler now and ethics and will be discarded.

    As for Franco Mercieca, he needs to decide either one way or the other; service through his profession or service through politics, they two completely different positions and it seems that he has chosen politics to be of service to the people.

  13. La Redoute says:

    Franco Mercieca is to be reported to the Medical Council. To whom shall we report Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for breaching the code of ethics himself?

  14. M... says:

    Call me cynical but as far as I can make out, laser eye treatment is as vital to patients as Botox is to dentists.

    The person we are dealing with here seems not to have purchased the equipment at Mater Dei: either because it would be more lucrative to carry out operations of a cosmetic nature in a private clinic; or because it was not deemed appropriate for the taxpayer to pick up the bill for such surgeries.

    In any case, it now seems that he is refusing to give up the lucrative position he has forged for himself.

  15. Bahrija says:

    With a nine-seat majority, Joseph Muscat has already become a dictator. He’s riding roughshod over everybody and he is sure that nothing will stand in his way. He’s the ‘king” now, so beware.

    Some of the people he’s put in certain posts, like the commissioner of police, really take the biscuit.

    A Chinese-style inspector, brought out from retirement and promoted to head the police department. True to “lejber” style he sounds so reasonable, almost saintly and then out comes the past to haunt him.

    But it seems he’s not afraid of ghosts or skeletons – life goes on.

    Isn’t there somebody decent, serving in the police corps, who could have been chosen for the post without such a blemish in his police post?

  16. PD says:

    from TOM comment board…..unbelievable! I hope there is continuous vehement opposition to this matter because it shouldn’t be allowed to pass.

    John Attard

    Today, 14:18

    Some never learn. the People have spoken and decided on PL governing this country. And PL doesnot mind changing what has been established inthe past, including code of ethics. Its time it is changed.

  17. Did Joseph Muscat promise Franco Mercieca that he could practise privately while serving in cabinet, so that Labour would gain the third seat in Gozo?

  18. Maria says:

    Thomas Fenech as head of the ophthalmic department knows his staff much better than Franco Mercieca does. The medical staff in that team are all good surgeons, and they can all carry out the procedures.

    It is true thatMercieca is trained in corneal transplants, whilst Fenech’s speciality is retinal detachment surgery. But how many people are in dire need of a corneal transplant? You have more people suffering from retinal detachment than in need of a transplant.

    Dr Soler carried out the first corneal transplant ever in Malta. Before he died, Thomas Fenech returned from the United States fully trained in retinal and vitrectomy surgery. Before his arrival, most of the patients needing that kind of surgery would be sent to Moorfields in London.

  19. Ghoxrin Punt says:

    Would you want to be operated on by someone on his “off” day who has already declared he is doing so against no payment?

    If, as the saying goes, “you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”, what would happen if you pay nothing?

    Mercieca is looking for nothing but trouble and is fast losing any credibility he may have had.

    • Maria Xriha says:

      I used to have such a high regard for Franco Mercieca’s abilities. I wish he’d never become such a mess of a politician.

  20. Angus Black says:

    Now watch for an all-out war against the Medical Council on Labour/GWU media.

  21. Gahan says:

    Would anyone in his senses ask for Mr Mercieca’s ophthalmic services?

    I wouldn’t go to him even if his cat died, let alone in the midst of this barrage of questions popping up from everywhere:

    The press

    His colleagues at Mater Dei Hospital

    The Medical Council

    The party in opposition

    His fellow MPs

    and probably his wife asking why the family income has plummeted, while his work load has increased.

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