The Malta Independent 16 May 2022, Monday

'The government is showing that it does not care about the nursing sector' – MUMN

Semira Abbas Shalan Tuesday, 10 May 2022, 14:02 Last update: about 5 days ago

The government is showing that it does not care about the nursing and midwife professions, as the working conditions for nurses and the lack of nurses in Malta has become a national crisis, President of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses Paul Pace said.

Speaking at a press conference on the annual International Day of Nurses and Midwives on Tuesday, Pace said that the lack of nurses in Malta is resulting into difficult working conditions for nurses and midwives, consequently leading to the lack of services in hospitals and clinics.

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Pace expressed regret and anger towards the way nurses have been neglected by the government, particularly with the ‘poaching’ of nurses that is being done from the government, taking human resources from private institutions to work with the government due to the shortage of nurses.

Pace said that there are around 600 persons in shortage, and the Health Ministry’s only solution had been to recruit nurses from third world countries, who have also been ‘poached’ from private entities CareMalta and HealthMark. 15% to 20% of the nurse workforce in Malta is comprised of foreign nationals, Pace said.

He said that the government has been taking nurses from private entities who have struggled to recruit the same nurses in the first place, and their effort has not been recognised.

He spoke about the difficulties faced by the union to recruit nurses, who upon leaving the University, they would have already made up their minds that they will continue to become doctors.

Moreover, the working conditions are so bad that nurses have left the occupation to go into other lines of work, such as gaming, Pace said.

The MUMN will present a sectoral agreement up for discussion with the government, which include several proposals to alleviate the problem of staff shortage, as well as better the existing working conditions. Better pay, certain allowances for students, as well as nursing students receiving a minimum wage throughout their studies instead of a stipend are among the proposals, Pace said. He also said that there will be incentives to try to bring back ex-nurses into the workforce.

Currently, for nurses and midwives to be able to take their rightful vacation leaves, they would need to ask another colleague if they could cover their shift in overtime, Pace said.

He also spoke about how nurses do not have any form of protection against situations which they cannot control due to the staff shortage, referring specifically to the police charges against a Mount Carmel Hospital (MCH) nurse over unprofessional conduct in 2017 and MCH manager Joseph Pace, which the union has insisted that it must be revised and dropped immediately.

Pace said that the union will speak to the Permanent Secretary for Health to settle the issue, in hopes of the charges being dropped.

“If it were negligence, the union would have not defended Pace, however this is an injustice against him, and the union will take a stand. It is unjust for nurses to be painted as criminals after all the dedication they put into their work. The staff shortage is not the nurses’ fault,” Pace said.

The MUMN also expressed its disappointment over the government ignoring the union’s mental wellbeing programme, which needs to be financed by the health ministry.

“It is useless talking about great improvements for mental health in the electoral program during the election campaigns, when promises are still not fulfilled,” the union said.

Pace said that as a protest, the annual conference will be held at the MUMN premises rather than at the health ministry where it used to be held.

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