The Malta Independent 15 April 2024, Monday
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The Bormla Elderly persons’ controversy

Michael Briguglio Thursday, 22 June 2023, 10:30 Last update: about 11 months ago

'Case closed... let's move on' was the message of Minister Jo-Etienne Abela, when asked about the current controversy surrounding the Cospicua home for the Elderly. He added that he had all that he had to say about this through reports he tabled in Parliament (last week), and that he has been responsible for this Ministry since April 2022.

Let us go back some days, when various media portals, including the Malta Independent, reported on the controversy concerning this residence, which was built in 1997. The editorial of the Malta Independent (12 June) summed up the controversy as follows.

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"Residents were shocked a couple of weeks ago when they were told that they had a couple of days notice to choose an alternative home to stay in and be evacuated from their current residence. The matter has since developed into a saga punctuated by a lack of transparency as to what the exact technical reasons for the evacuation of residents were, and by a lack of an inquiry or investigations into the matter."

Indeed, when residents recently learned that in a matter of a few days they need to pack up and be relocated elsewhere, they organised a protest. In the meantime, Nationalist MP Paula Mifsud Bonnici raised the issue in parliament, and many questions were raised by the media.

In reply, Minister for Active Ageing Etienne Jo Abela had stated that the action in question is necessary, and that no inquiry is needed for this, as there are serious doubts" on the structure of the Cospicua home. He promised that the residents will be getting proper care in alternative residences, whilst the home in question will have work done to ensure it "conforms to the high standards and levels of dignity that the government requires of homes for the elderly."

Since then, it also transpired that last February an application was submitted to the Planning Authority "to demolish part of the existing building and re-construct a residential home for the elderly (class 2A). The new proposed Bormla home shall not exceed the existing building volume and number of floors and shall keep the same use."

Subsequently, it also transpired, through a report which was tabled in Parliament last week, that it had been known for almost two years (!) that the concrete at the home was not up to scratch. Other reports were also tabled, referring to disrepair and shabbiness at the residence.

It is very unfortunate, to say the least, that the residents of this home only got to know about their relocation a few weeks ago, and that documentation was only made public after the uproar and public pressure.

From what has emerged in public so far, is clear that Government did not conduct proper assessments on the social dimensions of this controversy, and that consultation with the residents and other stakeholders such as workers was not on the agenda. The relocation of people and merchandise are not the same thing. Indeed, it is very disturbing that this issue is being framed by the Minister primarily as a construction issue when we are speaking of lived experience, community life, and social impacts.

This is yet another issue where Malta is crying for the need for a strong social movement to speak up for the rights of an aggrieved group, in this case elderly people.

 

Dr Michael Briguglio is a sociologist and senior lecturer at the University of Malta

www.michaelbriguglio.com

 

 

 


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