The Malta Independent 16 May 2022, Monday

First Aid in Schools: Government should employ nurses in every school – MUT

Wednesday, 26 April 2017, 09:40 Last update: about 6 years ago

The legal responsibility which comes about with having First Aid qualifications should be the first thing to be tackled in regards to first aiders in schools, according to outgoing President of the Malta Union of Teachers, Kevin Bonello.

The Malta Independent spoke to Mr Bonello to get his take on the situation regarding the presence of First Aiders in schools around Malta and Gozo.

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“A person who is doing his/her duty and who might not be up to nursing should never be forced to carry out First Aid as this may have bad repercussions on both the administrator as well as the ‘patient’,” said Mr Bonello, adding that “this is what people fear.” “The Government should, instead, do its best to employ nurses (like retired nurses) in every school,” he said.

“I strongly believe that this must evolve into a situation whereby all sorts of First Aid situations should be tackled by the same persons, but this is not yet possible since people need to leave their classes to carry these things out,” Mr Bonello said. “Ideally, there should be a nurse in each school, but even nurses are in short supply.”

This explanation as to the reason why there are not enough first aiders in schools, especially in state schools is shared by both Mr Bonello Minister for Education Evarist Bartolo.

Speaking to this newspaper, last week, the Minister said that “I am told that people do not become First Aiders, not because they do not want to help others, but because apparently, if you are a First Aider in Malta, legally you are not covered if something goes wrong.” He continued to state that the Government “will move to have such a law.”

Documents tabled in Parliament by Minister Bartolo (above) on the 12th of April showed that 18 state schools around Malta and Gozo did not have any first aiders, eight out of which were primary schools. Furthermore, interestingly, the statistics showed that within the 10 Independent schools there are more trained first aiders than in the 109 state schools, with 157 and 152 first aiders respectively.  The 24 Church schools around Malta and Gozo have 48 trained first aiders in total, where first aiders were listed in every school. On average, state schools have one or two first aiders.

Last week, Minister Bartolo informed The Malta Independent that there should be two First Aiders in each school.

When asked why private schools have so many more first aiders than state schools, Mr Bonello replied saying that he believes that the concept of first aiders in private schools is different than that used in State and Church schools.

“In state schools, first aiders are persons who are bound with a sort of agreement in which they are expected to give basic aid to the extreme cases, for example the administration of Epipen,” said Mr Bonello, “Many people in state schools and church schools who are not officially first aiders then carry out basic first aid, such as seeing to a child who gets bruised after falling.”

Mr Bonello (above) mentioned that in some schools there are health and safety teachers who have been doing this task for many years. However, in some instances, more specialized people to help in “rare situations” where First Aid is needed remain not catered for.

“On the other hand, private schools tackle First Aid, in the proper sense of the word, without the use of health and safety teachers, and many also carry out in-service training for their staff in First Aid,” he explained. Both Mr Bonello and Minister Bartolo mentioned that in state schools, it is “made sure” that were there are pupils who suffer from life threatening allergies, there is always a first aider appointed.

The concept and practice of teaching First Aid to students as well as teachers is one which is shared and being implemented by the Education Ministry and Malta Red Cross. Mr Bonello, however, emphasizes the importance of firstly tackling the legal responsibility. Minister Bartolo has also expressed wishes for a ‘next step’ to be Mental Health First Aid. 

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