The Malta Independent 8 May 2021, Saturday

Not a single nursing section in Malta working at full complement – MUMN President

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 31 October 2019, 10:11 Last update: about 3 years ago

There is not a single nursing section in Malta or Gozo working at full complement at the moment, President of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) Paul Pace told The Malta Independent.

The nursing shortage on the island has been known for quite some time, but Pace says that the situation is getting worse as the shortage is growing. “There are more people leaving the profession than joining.”

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On average, he said, Mater Dei Hospital is losing around two to three nurses every week, and this is taking into account the foreign nurses being brought in.

The situation, the MUMN president said, needs to urgently be addressed. Pace told this newsroom that give or take around 15% of the nursing workforce are now foreign nurses.

Asked what needs to be done to at least begin to fix the situation, he highlighted that the University of Malta currently requires an A-level in Biology for the nursing degree and an O-level biology for the nursing diploma, which he says does not make sense and makes it harder for people to enter the nursing profession.

“Many other countries do not require an A or O-level equivalent specifically in biology to enter a nursing course. Instead of requiring any science subject, they went with the specific biology requirement.” Northumbria University, who have a course being taught at MCAST, also require biology but are willing to change, he said.

Pace also took aim at collective agreement issues. He said that the scope of the nursing collective agreements are to make the profession as attractive as possible, to incentivise young people to join nursing. Unfortunately, he said, young people are going for the other medicine related professions, as they don’t need to work as long hours, and does not make sense for them to become nurses.  He said what agreements are made with the government in collective agreements for nurses are also being given to the other medical professions. This, he said, results in the nursing collective agreements not remaining attractive enough for young people, and a young person might opt instead to become a radiographer or a speech therapist or a number of other such professions, instead of choosing nursing, Pace explained.

It’s also a vicious cycle, as given the shortage, nurses are having to work longer hours, he said. When negotiating a collective agreement the government needs to consider the retention of the current nurses while also making the profession more attractive, not neutralise it by giving the same agreement conditions to others, he said, as that makes it pointless in terms of attracting more people to the profession.

Another issue, he said, is that the nursing salary in Malta is somewhere in the middle in terms of EU wide nursing salaries, with Ireland, Luxembourg and Nordic countries being at the top. As such, some Maltese nurses are leaving to those countries. Ireland has become the number one destination for Maltese nurses to consider leaving for, he said.

In addition, a number of foreign nurses who come to Malta require certain extra training, and are given a bridging course, but the issue is that some of these nurses will remain in Malta for a short-time only then to leave and go to the higher paying countries.

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