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Our View: Medical Association has always acted too much like a union

Health Minister Giorgos Pamborides

MINISTER of Health Giorgos Pamborides had a dig at the Cyprus Medical Association (CyMA) on Monday for its failure to investigate its members and issue decisions. This was the association’s responsibility and it was wrong to complain that the ministry had not kept it informed about the investigation of doctors, said Pamborides.

He was responding to an announcement issued last Friday by CyMA which complained because the ministry had not responded to two of its letters, urging an investigation against a doctor, facing specific allegations. It had also asked for the findings of an investigation into claims that a government doctor was practising privately, so it could activate disciplinary procedures, but received no response.

Pamborides, quite rightly, wondered why the association needed the findings of the ministry and had not carried out its own investigation. As he pointed out, it was CyMA’s legal responsibility to investigate and punish disciplinary offences and unethical practices by doctors, while the state dealt with suspected violations of the law and did not need to brief anyone about its actions.

It was a bit rich of CyMA to “express displeasure and disappointment for these omissions, which jeopardise the quality of the medical treatment provided to our fellow citizens and worsen the climate of prejudice and lack of trust,” given its record. The problem has always been that CyMA has operated as a trade union, protecting the interests of its members rather than as a professional body ensuring correct and ethical practices. The association has always been very lenient to members who had violated its code of professional ethics, usually letting them off with a slap on the wrist.

It is therefore in no position to complain to the ministry and was disingenuous to claim that the association’s organs would “examine in depth” the actions of the doctors, after the final decision of the courts. Thus it left the door open for an appeal to the Supreme Court before its disciplinary council looks at the ethical conduct of its members. Should the disciplinary council not have undertaken an investigation, as the allegations had been reported to the association, before the police stepped in? And what good would an investigation be after the courts had issued a decision?

Friday’s announcement read much more as a defence of CyMA’s failure to impose ethical practices and passing the buck than a legitimate criticism against the ministry. But what can we expect from a professional organisation that has consistently acted like a trade union rather than as a professional body that ensures high standards and ethical practices?

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