Updated 11.10am, adds PN statement

Nurses are concerned over what they say is lack of preparations by the health authorities in case a patient tests positive for the coronavirus, insisting they do not even know who the team on the frontline will be.

Precautions have been stepped up in recent days as the new virus spreads close to Malta, with Italy registering seven deaths as a result of the COVID-19. 

Yet despite the authorities’ promises that all the necessary measures were in place in case a patient in Malta falls ill with the virus, the nurses are stating otherwise. 

This was refuted by the health authorities, who on Tuesday said some 350 nurses had been trained in the emergency department, the infectious diseases ward and the intensive care unit. 

In comments to Times of Malta, nurses’ union head Paul Pace said there had yet to be a drill at Mater Dei that would provide medical staff with basic training in case a patient with COVID-19 is admitted. 

He described how nurses were being left in the dark as they have yet to even learn who of them will be assigned to handle coronavirus patients. 

“They do not even know who will be on the frontline if a patient is brought in.

This is not something that involves bringing in someone from one of the wards and taking over. The nurses need to be prepared,” he said. 

Attempts to discuss the matter with the hospital management have proved futile, he said. Times of Malta has reached out to the health authorities on the matter. 

Meanwhile, Mr Pace said that the nurses do not even know which areas would actually be used in such cases.

This, he said, was crucial because nurses needed to know which equipment they would be using. 

Mr Pace said the union would be backing nurses who refuse to treat patients with the virus if there continued to not be any training or information on planning. 

The union boss said nurses were also asking about what measures the authorities were taking to ensure they themselves are provided with adequate protection. 

“Nurses have families too. Are there plans to quarantine those treating patients to ensure the virus is contained? We don’t know yet,” he said. 

On Sunday, the health authorities announced that all people arriving in Malta would be screened by thermal cameras.

An isolation unit with 12 beds for mild cases of the coronavirus has also been set up outside Mater Dei. According to Health Minister Chris Fearne, critical cases would be treated at the Infectious Diseases Unit inside the hospital.

Union issues directive

In a statement, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses said if nurses are not brought on board and the necessary training, protocols and planning is not provided, nurses are not to attend to patients suffering from the coronavirus.

"MUMN would also have expected that special training, special protocols and planning be done so that nurses attending to coronavirus patients will be well prepared.

"To our knowledge none of this is being done by MDH, nor by the Infection Control unit and neither by the Public Health sector," the union said.

PN statement

In a statement, the Nationalist Party said it was offering its help and all the necessary support to the health and port authorities and the government to fight the virus.

It encouraged the government to keep the people informed of all developments and to allocate all the necessary resources to the public and workers.

It also encouraged the people not to alarm themselves unnecessarily and to follow any directions issued by the concerned authorities.

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