The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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TMID Editorial: Shortages

Monday, 5 December 2022, 09:50 Last update: about 3 months ago

State agencies for social workers are having to resort to 'quick fixes' to address the significant shortage of social workers in the country, by bringing in unqualified persons for the role, PN MP Graziella Attard Previ told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

Social workers perform very important duties. Attard Previ, who is herself a senior social worker, said that there are significant problems within the social work industry which do not attract new people to the sector.  She mentioned more competition and more lucrative jobs elsewhere, which resulted in the shortage, and that there are better 'vocations' with better pay. She also said that social work is a stressful job which is not considered as prestigious as other professions, and that social workers are also paid insufficiently, which is the major deterrent to prospective social workers.

Such a situation paints a worrying picture. The fact is that many sectors are facing human resource shortages amplifies this issue. It's not just in the private sector either. There are also shortages of nurses, police officers.

Speaking of the shortage in of nurses for instance, this situation has been a point of contention between the nursing union - the MUMN, and the government. Following the recent injunction against the union's directives regarding St Vincent de Paul and elderly homes which were preventing the admission of new residents, the MUMN said: "Due to this mandatory injunction, nurses working in SVPR and elderly homes are once again expected to work against all odds having 37 patients taken care by one nurse. Residents of SVPR who need special care will be once again be jeopardized since one nurse can never cope with the huge number of patients in every SVPR ward. Not to mention that in Homes, one nurse will once again have 80 residents; which is not right at all and can easily lead to malpractice."

The government's need to lift the directives is understandable to free up beds at Mater Dei Hospital - an issue that had been building, but the nursing shortage also needs to be addressed.

So then what is the way forward? For one, the government might have to review the working conditions and pay packages of essential professions. In this current period of international financial issues, with rising inflation, this is all the more difficult.

But a shortage in professions that are so very needed in society is a serious problem and needs to be solved.

The government should probably start by cutting any excess weight and really check whether all the people that are employed by government in non-essential jobs are truly needed. In today's day and age there are shortages in the private sector so really and truly such people will likely find a job pretty fast. Perhaps the government could even help find jobs in the private sector for such people if such a move is considered to be too politically problematic. Such funds could then be put aside to help improve pay packages of essential workers.

But that will unlikely be enough, and government would still need to do more.


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