Nurses at the Intensive Therapy Unit and the Oncology Centre will be following union directives as from Wednesday after reporting burnout caused by a shortage of staff. 

In a letter sent to the permanent secretary, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses said the shortage of nurses was an issue that the health division was taking too lightly.  

While shortage was a chronic issue, it had peaked among nurses and sensitive areas such as ITU and SAMOC had “collapsed”, it said.

In his letter, MUMN president Paul Pace said that the situation at the ITU took a turn for the worse when six patients with COVID-19 were admitted for intensive treatment.

The heavy workload that these patients brought with them had further compounded the shortage of nurses.  

'COVID-19 patients create astronomical workload'

“For those people with no medical background, six COVID-19 cases in ITU means an astronomical workload and the burnout is already being felt among the nursing staff in ITU,” Pace wrote.

He said that only 52 nurses from the recent recruitment efforts had been deployed at Mater Dei Hospital, while another 46 were transferred to other entities. This, he said, was “unacceptable”. 

In all, there are 250 vacancies for nurses at Mater Dei, 30 of which are at the Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre.

Pace noted that unless more nurses were added to the staff complement at the ITU by October 1, bringing the ratio up to one nurse for every patient, nurses working there will start following directives which include the ambulation and shrouding of patients. This involves helping patients out of bed and dressing bodies for burial.

“These directives will affect the care of the patients. MUMN considers ITU a sensitive area where directives must be used as a very last resort. This is the last resort. Therefore, MUMN expects that the health division to treat the workload and vacancies in ITU and SAMOC as their top priority,” Pace wrote.

Questions sent to the Health Ministry remained unanswered by the time of writing. 

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