Podiatry in Malta is still a relatively new profession. From the start, the Department of Health decided to adopt the term Podology in keeping with the rest of Europe, except for the United Kingdom in which the term Chiropodist was used. The Department of Health – the main health-regulating body within the Government of Malta – organised the first course in Podology. The School of Medical Podology opened its doors to the first batch of students on 20th December, 1982.The school was the brainchild of the late Professor John Buontempo, who was one of the only two chiropodists practicing on the island.
From the beginning, a high academic level was maintained, with the Podology students often sitting for the same lectures as medical students. Prof Buontempo retired, because of health reasons, to be replaced by a British chiropodist of South African descent, Mr M.M. Chetty, who had been sent over by the Commonwealth Secretariat for the purpose of finishing the course.
During early 1985, the students had their first clinical exposure at the Skin Outpatients, Boffa Hospital, where a Podology Service was first provided. However, it was in late 1985, under Mr Chetty’s directions, that the Podology Department was initially set up. It was a hurried affair, in a large room adjacent to the Dental Department on the second floor of the Outpatients’ Block at St Luke’s Hospital. The room was divided into four cubicles with a central reception and a small staff room. Word quickly spread, and a healthy turnout of clients ensued.
The first batch of nine students qualified in March 1986. These were hurriedly employed by the Health Department and a second course was started. From the beginning, Podology was a profession by Maltese law, represented by two podologists on the Board of Professions supplementary to Medicine.
It was soon realised that the premises of the Podology Department were quite small, so a couple of years later new premises were made available. Because of Malta’s high incidence of Diabetes, a Diabetes Foot Clinic was started which also became very busy.
In 1989, Mr Chetty’s contract expired and his place was taken by Mr Alfred Gatt in 1990, who took the post of Principal Podologist. The Service expanded, being offered to all Government Hospitals, including St Vincent de Paule Residence, Boffa Hospital, Mt Carmel Hospital and Gozo General Hospital. Clinics at the major Health Centres were set up. This move to the community was so successful that in 1994 the whole department was shifted over to the Primary Health Care Department. By the year 2000, all the Health Centres in Malta boasted at least one Podology Clinic, with several having even two. A Rheumatology Foot Clinic was also set up at the Medical Out Patients department and the latest addition, since January 2002, a Podogeriatric team at St Vincent de Paule Residence, which is the central hub supplying podiatry services to all government old peoples’ homes.
The current Podology Department is situated at the B’Kara Civic Centre with Mr Alfred Gatt as Manager Podology Services and Mr Andrew Scicluna, Principal Podologist, heading the new Podogeriatric Service. There are also five Assistant Principals and a number of Senior Podologist in the Podology hierarchy.
Podiatry has grown – nowadays the Department alone handles over 60,000 cases annually. There are 34 podologists employed by the Health Department & a few working privately on a full- time basis.