The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

Cold showers for patients: Former senior official lifts lid on ‘disastrous’ Mount Carmel Hospital

Albert Galea Wednesday, 5 June 2019, 16:45 Last update: about 3 months ago

Patients at Mount Carmel Hospital had to endure cold showers in the depths of winter, leaking ceilings and dangerous cracked ceramic floors for months, a former senior official at the hospital told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

Paul Dalli, the former Chief Operations Officer, told Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee that he simply could not take seeing the poor conditions that patients had to suffer through any longer, and was therefore forced to use a contract with an employment agency meant to employ clerks to engage a raft of handymen and maintenance personnel to fix the hospital’s disastrous state.

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Dalli said that patients at the mental hospital were forced to shower in the nude in communal showers with no privacy and noted that due to problems in the water heaters, patients in around eight of the hospital’s wards were forced to take only freezing cold showers, despite warnings from medical staff that certain medication would not work if patients’ body temperatures dropped to low.

Furthermore, ceramic floor tiles were cracked in such a manner that they could even cut a main artery of a person, which could even result in their death.  He made mention of another ward, where floors had been infested and destroyed by mice, and said that the hospital had been left to rot into a state of disrepair.

Dalli’s raw account of the horrific state of the hospital came as members of the Public Accounts Committee grilled him over a National Audit Office report which had flagged suspicious employment during his tenure.

Dalli admitted that he had employed people through a contract – which had been signed before his tenure – listed as clerks but who in actual fact were tradespeople whose job would be to fix various things around the hospital.  He said that his hands were tied and that it was either that, or simply watching the hospital deteriorate further.

I referred the auditor to some documentation and records on lists of people – but these have been lost.  The Auditor couldn’t find them because his office was soon taken by up by the hospital’s procurement department as their initial office was damaged and declared unsafe to work in; but the assumption is that these records have since been moved.

“The situation was desperate – I had to employ these people to solve the problems around the hospital”, Dalli said before adding that these were paid €900 per month to work there.

PN MP Chris Said brought up that some 60 people had been employed between May and June in the run up to the 2017 general election, but Dalli dismissed any notion of preference or foul play, noting that the problems had begun long before then and so had the attempt to recruit more people.

Asked about who was taking responsibility for the employment of so many more members of staff – the staff at the hospital reached 160 by June – and who had authorised him to make such decisions, which had been of expense on public funds, Dalli said that the responsibility was all his to shoulder and that he had taken the decision to circumvent standard procedure due to the state of the hospital.

“You need to understand what it was like in there when I was there. It was a disastrous state. We did not have enough nurses, we did not even have enough security – we had people escaping from the mental hospital,” he said.

He said that as a person who had worked in the private sector for most of his life, the levels of government bureaucracy had broken him, and added that he had tried to use every means possible to reach the goal of improving the state of the hospital.  “That is my only justification”, he said.

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