The introduction of the Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry in Malta, has been at the top of the agenda for MMSA and KSU for many years. Although both entities are not against the introduction of private medical universities in Malta, the country’s limited resources must be taken into consideration.

Our concerns stem from the inevitable reality that as Barts Medical School reaches full capacity, another 180 students will be added to Mater Dei’s already stretched resources. These resources include both academic and clinical staff, clinical time, infrastructure and patients.

Whilst the Ministry for Health (MfH) insists that the current resources are sufficient, daily first-hand experience before the pandemic showed that resources were already limited, with issues related to clinical attachments and consultant-to-student ratios. As the number of Barts students increases, this situation is bound to exacerbate.

In a spirit of goodwill, MMSA and KSU have been in talks with concerned parties including, Barts Medical School, the University of Malta and especially the MfH, on how there can be workable co-existence between the two Universities at Mater Dei Hospital.

As we have already iterated in the past, as representative entities within the education field, it is not in our competence to discuss the political, economical and financial aspects of this issue. However, it is well within our remit to discuss the potential impact on the standard of medical education given and consequently the quality of our health services on the island.

A Freedom of Information Act request was filed on the 11th of September 2019, requesting documents involving agreements between the MfH and Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. This request was denied. Subsequently, both MMSA and KSU entered a mediation process headed by a Deputy Commissioner at the Office of the Information and Data Protection Commission (IDPC).

It is disappointing that the MfH is unwilling to fully disclose the conditions for Barts Medical School at Mater Dei hospital with the elected representatives of all medical students at the University of Malta. During this process of mediation, MMSA and KSU requested a set of proposals to safeguard quality medical education at the University of Malta. The MfH did not respond in a satisfactory manner to these proposals.

The response received from the Ministry during the mediation process makes it clear that the MfH is reluctant to ensure that quality of medical education for the University of Malta student is not compromised.

MMSA and KSU remain adamant that there is no room for compromise with the interests of our members. As of today, the requested safeguards have not been guaranteed by the relevant authorities at the MfH. We feel that the current disharmony in perspectives between the MfH and medical students stems from the fact that contrary to the Ministry, the student body is taking into consideration a more long-term approach.

We therefore, call upon the relevant authorities to take heed of our requests and recognise the urgency for action. MMSA and KSU look forward to a constructive discussion with all stakeholders including the Minister for Health to ensure an agreeable and sustainable outcome for all.