The Malta Independent 15 June 2024, Saturday
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Government has plans to create 600 new beds in Mater Dei Hospital

Albert Galea Sunday, 19 May 2024, 07:15 Last update: about 27 days ago

The government has shared plans to create 600 new beds at Mater Dei Hospital with medical professionals who work at the country’s main medical facility, The Malta Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Health Minister Jo Etienne Abela held an open meeting with Mater Dei Hospital staff on Thursday where he presented the government’s plans, detailing the short, medium, and long term plans to increase the capacity of the hospital as it struggles to keep up with the demand of Malta’s growing population.

Much of the plans revolve around the usage of new space at what used to be the HSBC Call Centre in Swatar, outsourcing, and also revamping St Luke’s Hospital – which is back in the government’s hands after the concession with Steward Health Care was annulled by a court – in order to transfer some services over there.

The plan is expected to cost the government somewhere in the region of 64 million, The Malta Independent on Sunday is informed.

Several measures are being proposed in the short-term, according to the presentation given to staff.  The first two are to outsource different patients, thereby freeing up 113 beds.  These would be long term older adults who are awaiting a long-term care transfer (100 beds), and long term younger adults with neurological issues (13 beds).  The time frame given for this measure is “now.”

By the summer, there are plans to empty the Surgical Admissions Unit 2 (SAU2) and Medical Ward 9 (M9) to be replaced acute mental health cases. Abela in fact told Parliament earlier this week that the government was planning to close Mount Carmel Hospital and move acute mental health to Mater Dei Hospital.

There are also plans to relocate 160 administrative staff to Swatar, with the space they vacate then being used to create a new ward.  The Malta Independent on Sunday is informed that the staff will be moved to the building which used to house HSBC’s Call Centre, a stone’s throw away from the hospital.

The Call Centre, which was operated by HSBC Global Services (UK) Limited Malta Branch and which was dedicated to providing customer service and customer due diligence to the bank’s UK customers, was scheduled to have fully shut its doors by June.

IT space within Mater Dei Hospital will also be converted into ward space by the coming winter, according to the presentation.

In the medium term, the government will also be seeking to relocate the hospital’s filing area to a digital and secure depot, and to also relocate and outsource the Central Sterile Services Department (CSSD) and cleaning.  Both measures are, according to the plan, envisioned to take between a year and two years to be completed.

In the long term, The Malta Independent on Sunday can reveal that endoscopy, dental ophthalmic, day surgery, and Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) will be relocated to St Luke’s Hospital in Guardamangia.

The hospital was one of three which was handed over to Vitals Global Healthcare and later Steward Health Care on a concession basis. Part of the concession was that significant works were to be done at the hospital, including the creation of rehabilitation beds and medical tourism beds, but none were ever carried out.

The concession was ultimately annulled by a court, and confirmed on appeal.  It is the same concession over which dozens – including former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his ex-Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, former minister Konrad Mizzi, and previous Health Minister Chris Fearne – have been charged with serious crimes in court.

The works to relocate these departments to St Luke’s hospital are expected to take between three and five years, according to the plans presented to staff.

Moves for the Medical and Nursing School and the Outpatients department will also help create more bed space.  These have long been mooted.  Last February it was suggested that the Medical School may be relocated to Guardamangia, but this was opposed by students and it is unclear if this is still the plan.

Likewise in March, Abela told the media that plans for a brand new Outpatients block on Mater Dei’s grounds had been scrapped even before he was appointed Health Minister in January, and the new plan was to relocate this department to St Luke’s Hospital and Karin Grech Hospital as well.

Meanwhile, there are also medium to long term plans to increase the capacity of Mater Dei’s Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU).  Presently holding 20 beds, a 40% increase to 28 beds is envisioned amongst other changes to avoid any shortages in capacity.

Contacted for comment, Health Minister Jo Etienne Abela told The Malta Independent on Sunday that Thursday’s presentation was to gather feedback on the government’s plans from health professionals working at the hospital, who also had the opportunity to ask questions about them.

He said the plans will be honed based on the feedback before being presented to Cabinet for approval and formally presented to the media at the end of the month.

“Change is painful,” he said when asked what the feedback had been from those present. “That’s why my approach is that I am upfront so that if there are serious concerns then we can reconsider and back off… in fact I had ideas in January which I had cut out by March after discussions.”

He said that this was the first time that feedback had been acquired at such a large scale, and joked that he’d never seen the Central Auditorium – where the presentation was held – so full.

“Overall, the feedback I am getting is very positive.  It doesn’t mean that everybody will accept this vision as excellent, but I think there are many good points. Let’s put it this way, I still consider myself an employee at Mater Dei and at some stage I’ll be back there so I understand the psyche of my colleagues there and I know obviously you cannot agree with everyone – but overall I am confident that it will work out,” he said.

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