Updated 6.10pm with statement below by the Malta Health Network -

Operations are being postponed, patients must wait longer to start rehabilitation and beds are being blocked as a result of the nurses’ industrial action, a state hospital spokesperson has said.

The industrial action called by the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses at Mater Dei Hospital is impacting pain management, theatre surgery, orthopaedic elective and trauma surgeries, causing delays in the emergency department and bed blocking, she said.

This is resulting in patients with planned procedures being sent home

“This is resulting in patients with planned procedures being sent home, due to the union deciding, on a day-by-day basis, which theatres should function and which operations will take place and which will be cancelled,” she added.

One woman who contacted Times of Malta said she had been waiting for six months for a “major operation”  only to be told that it was not going to happen due to the industrial action.

She said that she had been on medication costing around €2,000 that was supposed to be taken ahead of a surgical procedure.

Negotiations underway since August

Last month, the MUMN ordered its nurses to take industrial action over “humiliating” and “demotivating” government proposals during negotiations for a new sectoral agreement. The government and the MUMN have been in negotiations for the new sectoral agreement since August.

However, things came to a head at the start of March when MUMN proposals were disregarded by the government, union president Paul Pace said.  

The directives impact all public hospitals, with separate directives dedicated to each hospital, with the exception of the Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. 

Among the directives for Mater Dei Hospital, nurses have been asked not to wash patients and refrain from clerical work. MUMN-represented nurses at care homes for the elderly have been told not to answer any phone calls or handle paperwork. 

The union’s directives had a knock-on effect on the Allied Health Care Workers’ Union that has instructed its workers not to wash patients unless supervised by a nurse. It also directed its members to refuse to do any work that does not form part of their job description, such as taking patients’ blood pressure. 

New directives in health centres and Gozo

This week, MUMN issued new directives to nurses at health centres and at the Gozo General Hospital. Nurses at health centres will stop accompanying doctors at health centre clinics, stop vaccinations relating to travel and stop clerical work including answering the phone.

Those at the Gozo hospital have been ordered not to assist at the dermatology, neuro, urology, dermatology outpatients, surgical outpatients, paediatrics, ophthalmic, cardio, ENT, rheumatology, nephrology and respiratory clinics. They have also been ordered not to perform any pre-ops excluding confirmed oncology operations and paediatrics operations.

'Patients must not bear the burden of industrial disputes'

The Malta Health Network, a national umbrella organisation bringing together over 40 health-related organisations said patients and their relatives should not bear the burden of industrial actions and disputes.

"In the month when we promote Patients’ Rights it is very opportune to remind all and appeal for the safeguarding of patients’ rights. It is essential to uphold patients’ rights to ensure that they continue to receive safe and effective healthcare," the network said.

It said it backed a statement recently issued by the Commissioner for Health who had called for a resolution of the situation in order to have the less possible impact on the Maltese Health Care System. 

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us