Updated with reaction from Brown’s pharmacy.
Shadow Health Minister Stephen Spiteri has been caught selling medical certificates for €5 each without seeing his patients first.
An investigation by Lovin Malta has revealed a racket of medical certificates being signed and sold at Brown’s Pharmacy in Kalkara where Spiteri is the resident doctor. Several phone calls, including the one being published tonight, were made on behalf of ‘patients’ wanting a medical certificate without visiting the doctor.
In all the phone calls, fictitious patients were given the green light to pick up their certificates the next day. In the recorded phone call being published tonight, the pharmacy specified that details cannot be given over the phone but must be given in person – even by somebody else – at any time during the day.
“Just come here and we’ll write a paper for him with your details, you pay €5 and then you come for it at about 7pm, tomorrow though, because he won’t be here,” the pharmacy said.
Asked what time Spiteri attended the pharmacy, Lovin Malta was told: “At 10am but he never finishes them at that time because he’ll have many (to sign).”
This evening Lovin Malta confronted Spiteri, telling him we have information that he is selling medical certificates on a large scale without seeing patients. He denied it.
“I didn’t sell. No,” he said immediately. “In fact someone called me yesterday and I told him to attend. Everyone needs to attend. Brown’s don’t take certificates by telephone. Only for who is chronically ill or is a patient that we know. Generally that’s how it happens.”
When told that we called several times and were always told that we could acquire a certificate without being seen by the doctor he said: “A big part of the work of a doctor is certificates. I can’t see why you’re seeing it as a big deal.”
Asked how many certificates he signed every day, he said: “I’m sorry, I’m working at the moment at the St James Clinic. These aren’t things for the telephone. If you want you can come and we can speak face to face.”
The conversation ended there.
Spiteri, who is close to PN leader Adrian Delia, recently spearheaded a motion against a government proposal to grant 100 hours of leave to couples who opt for assisted reproduction abroad. PN lost the vote in Parliament with a third of Opposition MPs voting against the PN’s proposal.
Spiteri was appointed spokesperson for health by outgoing leader Simon Busuttil, replacing Claudette Buttigieg who was appointed Deputy Speaker.
In 2011, Times of Malta had revealed Spiteri missed 81 per cent of parliamentary sittings, making him the MP who missed most sittings that year.
Lovin Malta will be seeking the Nationalist Party’s reaction on this case.
Speaking to Lovin Malta, co-founder of Brown’s pharmacy Alexander Fenech clarified that the pharmacy does not make a cent from medical certificates and he would be looking at current procedures “to ensure everything is done in an ethical manner”.
Transcript, as translated to English:
Browns: Hello, Browns Kalkara.
Lovin Malta: Where? Browns?
LM: Hi, I need a certificate because I was sick these past two days.
B: We don’t do this over the telephone Sir and Dr Spiteri is not here right now.
LM: I just want to give you my details. Can’t I just give you my details?
B: Not over the phone. What you can do is send somebody, they can write your details on a paper and you can pick it up tomorrow.
LM: How do I do it?
B: So you can write your name, surname, date and reason on a paper – if you’re not coming yourself obviously – this costs €5.
LM: So I don’t need an appointment with Stephen Spiteri…
B: No, just come here we’ll write a paper for him with your details, you pay €5 and then you come for it at about 7pm tomorrow, though because he won’t be here.
LM: What time does he come in?
B: At 10am but he never finishes them at that time because he’ll have many.
LM: And everything is legal right? Nobody can tell me anything.>
B: What do you mean?
LM: They cannot I guess, right? Don’t worry.
B: He does it… (inaudible) the signature is of a doctor.