The Malta Independent 22 July 2024, Monday
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A month confined

Noel Grima Sunday, 28 January 2024, 07:24 Last update: about 7 months ago

It’s been a month already since I was taken to Mater Dei hospital on Christmas Eve with what later turned out to be COVID. Since then I have not been out of confinement, first in various wards in Mater Dei and then in Karen Grech Hospital where I am completing rehab.

It’s been a month of endless discoveries since before that I had not spent a single night in hospital.

I have had two patients on either side of me dying as Malta battled an undeclared surge of infections and the staff and the structure battled with a hospital structure built when Malta had half the population it has now despite the hospital itself being a modern one.

The hospital rose, in my opinion, magnificently to the challenge. The last ward I was in, formerly the library of the building, is light and airy and kept in an immaculate condition through constant cleaning. But even the hospital itself is showing signs of wear and tear.

The staff, augmented by hundreds if not thousands of third country nationals, especially Indians, works around the clock but was swept off its feet by the surge of infections.

What failed at times was the quality of the Maltese patients. I think as a general rule we Maltese tend to feel superior to any coloured staff member whatever the rank. We also tend to disregard the colour code for the various groups and call each one “nurse” which can be off-putting in the case of eg a doctor.

Then there are exceptional cases, such as the patient, reportedly a pillar of his local community, who would wake up the entire cavernous ward, before 5am, vituperating and misogynistically offending the nurses or anybody around.

And we also had our version of the Wife of Bath, a person of huge proportions who cried to high heavens in whatever position she was put and who, if not immediately ‘obeyed’ by whoever was passing by, unleashed a torrent of vociferous protests with the volume getting louder and louder so that all conversation, even between doctor and patients, became impossible.

This character was also one of two who declared me to be their missing husband!

I was immensely impressed, while at Mater Dei, by the many student nurses (many from Gozo, identified by the lilting dialect) who showed a gentleness and a dedication to their calling that I pray will not lose its lustre as years go by.

There are examples anywhere you look. Such as the girl, always splendidly turned out, who daily sat by her ailing nannu and her despair, expressed in inimitable rich language, when she just missed his last moment.

On the other hand you get a re-initiation to a world you had forgotten, such as the Sunday morning national radio programme of ghana followed by band marches. Or the wall-to-wall Radio Maria programmes and the village life that still goes round us all.

These past days we got a visit by the new minister, accompanied by a posse of softly shod officials. The minister has a tough task ahead – to battle the Minister for Finance for more funds to upgrade the existing hospitals, from the Gozo Hospital to Mount Carmel to St Luke’s but actually all hospitals need an upgrade after years of empty promises and worse.

The Gonzi – Sant administrations gave us Mater Dei, the Muscat one sold us a fraud. The current administration is challenged to deliver as many upgrades as it humanly can.

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