The Malta Independent 30 November 2022, Wednesday
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TMID Editorial: Care for elderly people

Thursday, 24 November 2022, 10:45 Last update: about 6 days ago

The government has announced that two separate investigations are underway on alleged use of force by carers at St Vincent de Paul home for the elderly.

Four members of staff at the home have been suspended while the investigations take place. The police have also been involved in the matter.

The government’s decision came on the same day that the Commissioner for the Elderly, Godfrey La Ferla, expressed his “deep concern” over the current impasse with regard to the blocked admissions to residential and nursing homes specifically dedicated to our senior citizens.

The case dates back to last summer, when an elderly resident had been found missing from the home, and had eventually been found dead. An inquiry had been held but the outcome had not pleased the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses. The inquiry had found that the disappearance was the result of shortcomings in the standard care provided by the employees, rather than a failure of the system. The union had taken exception to this, and had ordered its members not to accept new residents at the home.

Three months have since passed, and no solution has been found. Only recently, Nationalist MP Paula Mifsud Bonnici had raised the issue in Parliament, saying that an 84-year-old man had died at home after being released – with the use of the police – from Mater Dei Hospital.

Health Minister Chris Fearne has said that elderly people are occupying beds in hospital which would otherwise be taken up by other patients. This means that patients who no longer need medical attention but cannot yet be sent home because they need care are staying in hospital, rather than being sent to St Vincent de Paul home. As a consequence for this, there is a shortage of beds at Mater Dei Hospital because these elderly people are occupying them.

The Commissioner for the Elderly was scathing in his criticism of the two sides – the government and the union, largely because the dispute between them has escalated and the impasse could lead to further incidents.

Unless the dispute is resolved immediately, further tragedies are likely, the commissioner said.

"Thus, this Office is soliciting the good sense of all parties to seek a resolution to this dispute,” the commissioner said. “Our society is duty bound to ensure that all the essential services to both the elderly as well as all patients presenting with acute problems are of a high standard and delivered in a timely fashion. Such services of care, that we are all so proud of, should never be used as a bargaining chip, no matter the circumstances. Humanity expects a lot more.”

We must agree with the commissioner that this issue has dragged on for far too long, and a solution needs to be found quickly. The victims of the prevailing situation are elderly people who need care and attention, but also others who need medical attention and yet this cannot be provided because beds are unavailable.

The two sides must put aside their differences in the best interests of all. 

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