The Rector of the University of Malta has been pushed by the Dentists’ lobby into declaring that there is no scope for a Masters Degree in Dental Technology. Indeed, only last Thursday, the Rector of the University of Malta announced the introduction of a Masters Degree in Responsible Gaming, which is fine. But what about the Masters Degree in Dental Technology? No, definitely not in Malta. There is no room for respect towards the key principle of proportionality; certainly not in Malta.
The fact that according to the Database on the Regulated Professions certain European Union countries notified the EU that in their country the profession of clinical dental technologists or denturists is a regulated profession serves to underline the fact that denturists are not what dentists are trying to make them out to be and that in these countries the profession of denturists is a story of remarkable success. Why should there be such a discriminatory attitude towards denturists? This is not what Community Law is all about.
In the domestic civil proceedings, the Applicants presented the testimony of Philip Tucker, a clinical dental technologist who has practised for many years as a registered denturist in England. When he applied to the Council for the Professions Complementary to Medicine for permission to establish his services in Malta, the Council replied with an outright refusal. Incidentally, the Council for the Professions Complementary to Medicine takes the easy way out and systematically shies away from shouldering its responsibilities. It says that it has no executive powers. The Maltese Judge acknowledged that the Council for the Professions Complementary to Medicine has an important role. They guide the Minister through their recommendations. The Council is not represented by any of its agents or lawyers at this oral hearing being held today.
If the referring Civil Court did not provide sufficient information regarding public interest considerations it is because neither the Council for the Professions Complementary to Medicine nor the Superintendent of Public Health had any valid points to present concerning considerations of public interest before the Maltese Civil Court. The refusal decision by the Maltese authorities resembles a dilapidated structure. There is no rhyme or reason; only arbitrariness.
Considering that it is a proven fact that denturists are qualified and trained to exercise their profession autonomously from the dental profession, there is no risk to public health. Dentures that prove to be defective can be removed instantly by the patient and will be adjusted or replaced without any risk at all to the patient. No serious or irreversible damage can result. There is no scientific evidence that removable partial dentures ‘per se’ cause serious damage.
The Maltese health authorities, like those of any other EU Member State, ought not to be allowed by this Court to base their refusal on flimsy grounds. There have to be valid reasons for refusing to abide by the Member State’s obligations of allowing freedom of establishment and cross-border provision of services. Patients have the right to access the Single Market.
The Third Schedule of Chapter 464 of the Laws of Malta contains a list of “Professions Complementary to Medicine”. Is the exclusion of the profession of denturists from this list without valid reasons to be tolerated by this Court? Is Maltese law in this regard compatible with the Articles of the TFEU and the Charter? It is up to the Maltese health authorities to prove the alleged risk; the ‘onus probandi’ lies on the party alleging that there exists a risk to public health.
Denturists undergo training and are highly qualified. In a letter sent by the Vice President of the European Committee of the International Federation of Denturists, representing Transparency Register 362696619240-92, to Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis on 2 October 2016, it was stated:
“A Denturist / CDT is allowed to work independently and can directly hear the expectations or medical concerns of patients. He manufactures the prosthesis, makes adaptations to the device (if necessary) and ultimately delivers and fits the appliance to the end-user / patient.”