Mater Dei Hospital is facing a rare situation for this time of the year with at least “a hundred bed blockers” waiting to be relocated to nursing homes, according to sources.

The situation got worse at the end of last week with several social cases that include elderly people requiring long-term care ending up crowding makeshift wards and a corridor. 

Discharged from hospital but with nowhere to go, because relatives may not be able or keen to provide the necessary care, they remain at Mater Dei until space is freed up in homes for the elderly.

Sources put the situation down to the lack of “spare capacity” at Malta’s only public acute and general hospital.  This is “a chronic problem that has been persisting for years at MDH”, they said. 

The hospital has also been under relative pressure because of the recent surge in COVID-19 with over 60 patients recovering in hospital, some in intensive care.

Malta Today yesterday reported lengthy waiting times both at emergency and health centres before treatment in hospital.

Contacted by Times of Malta, Health Minister Jo Etienne Abela said the problem is exacerbated by the fact the Maltese are living far longer and are putting pressure on medical services. He also conceded that the population of Malta has outstripped the limited spaces and resources available and said the current situation has no quick fix. 

He pointed to the government’s action plan for Mater Dei Hospital, unveiled at the end of May, and which is expected to free up space for 600 extra beds over the next five years.

“We are pushing the procurement process as much as we can.  We are committed to delivering and we are in it to our necks, but we cannot perform miracles.  All I can say is that if the plan fails, I will have no problem in shouldering responsibility.” Meanwhile, medical sources pointed out to the abnormality of the situation concerning lack of beds at MDH for this time of the year.  

“These problems are usually experienced in winter when temperatures drop and the risks from chest infections increase. But they are not normal for summer and were unexpected, to a certain extent, because there has been no sign of a prolonged heatwave yet.” 

Spaces that had been taken up to make room for patients during the worst of the pandemic are still being used as wards, including “an underground corridor with little to no natural light”.

One source told Times of Malta that the problem may get worse in the short term as plans to run down services at Karin Grech Hospital are stepped up in preparation for works that will eventually lead to the accommodation of outpatient and day care services. 

The government’s action plan addresses, among other things, emergency waiting time, total bed status, and particularly bed status in intensive care.

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