Family doctor Jan Chircop has hit out at the health authorities for lumping family doctors with the responsibility of dealing with potential coronavirus patients without even equipping them with the tools needed to combat the virus.
In an impassioned Facebook post, Chircop said the while there’s no cause for alarm about the virus, common sense required the health authorities to prepare in advance, with the coronavirus first emerging in 2019.
“One cannot remain silent when irresponsible decisions are being taken. I’ve spoken at medical fora, as well as with politicians, but it seems my words have fallen on deaf ears.”
Chircop recounted how the authorities remained silent for five days after the virus emerged in Italy, after which they advised people concerned they could have the virus to avoid health centres and the Emergency Department and instead contact a helpline or their doctor. However, family doctors weren’t consulted at all, leaving them unprepared to deal with concerned patients.
“Family doctors aren’t specialists in public health, far less a call centre for the health department. I personally (unfortunately) already cannot keep up with the phone calls of my practice, although I always try to do my best, let alone.”
“When patients can’t get in touch with me, some of them come straight to my clinic, something which happens daily. What will happen when someone with the coronavirus comes to my waiting room? Why haven’t people been advised to avoid entering waiting rooms of family doctors? Are the people waiting there anything less than those waiting at health centres or the Emergency Department? How will one be able to contain the spread of the virus in that case? Will the clinic have to close? If the clinic forms part of a pharmacy, will the pharmacy have to close too?”
Chircop questioned why Maltese people returning fro high-risk countries have been told to self-quarantine but tourists visiting Malta from those same countries hadn’t. He urged the government to stop tourists entering Malta from high-risk countries so as to keep the coronavirus out of the island for as long as possible and remain viable as a tourism destination.
Worse, family doctors haven’t even been given the necessary tools, such as protective clothing, nurse and isolation rooms, to deal with the threat.
“How can it be that the health department placed us on the frontline of this battle without equipping us? Is it true that 160,000 packs of protective equipment have been ordered but haven’t yet arrived?”
He said family doctors have been told to buy protective equipment from Mater Dei at €10 a packet but that they can only buy them one at a time.
“The pack costs €10 when it probably costs the government 10c. So I must now buy the packet that the health department purchased with my own taxes so that I can do its own work. It’s not about money, but what an insult! When we get exposed to the coronavirus, who will compensate us for our quarantine? It seems the government has found enough money to compensate those who were on holiday.
“Who is responsible for our health and our families after all these irresponsible decisions? Why was the clarification meeting with family doctors postponed to next week? Do we have time to waste? I’ve been talking about this for a week and have got nowhere. Help me.”