The 83-year-old man who has gone missing from St Vincent de Paul home for the elderly casually walked out through the main gate at 3am on Wednesday, CCTV footage shows.

The closed-circuit footage is being analysed by police investigators who are trying to trace the missing resident, Karmenu Fino.

Fino does not need a walking aid, according to sources close to the government’s largest home for the elderly.

The man was last seen on Tuesday afternoon.

The man did not have severe dementia- Government source

The CCTV footage is also being analysed by an internal inquiry, being conducted by retired judge Geoffrey Valenzia. It is seeking to establish the facts and made recommendations to prevent similar incidents from taking place in the future.

Sources said the inquiry will also call in the guard on duty that night to find out why he failed to see and stop the old man as he walked through the gate at that time of the morning.

The sources said the man, who was in the Padre Piju 2 ward, did not have severe dementia so he was not staying in a dementia ward where security is stricter and the doors are locked at all times of the day.

Patients and visitors need to press two switches of the ward’s main door simultaneously for it to open.

Only one nurse assigned to ward of 35

The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses said yesterday there was only one nurse in the man’s ward at the time he left.

It said the latest incident confirmed what the union had long been saying: that the shortage of nurses was jeopardising the safety of patients.

MUMN president Paul Pace said in a statement that Fino’s ward accommodates 35 residents and should be manned by a minimum of two nurses. However, due to a chronic lack of nurses, on the day of the incident only one nurse was assigned to the ward. And the nurse was from the reliever pool and not one who habitually worked in the ward, the union added.

Pace said the union was now expecting the home’s management to take disciplinary action against the nurse as they usually did rather than take the necessary remedial measures to address endemic problems once and for all.

The nurses’ complement, he said, had reached a critical level and, unless the government took the necessary measures to effectively remedy this chronic problem, one could only expect a repetition of such incidents.

The MUMN has also formally requested the SVPR management to put aside all statements on this case that nurses have made to date. It said these statements were given under duress and without allowing the nurses to seek the assistance of their union or legal consultants.

Nurse shortage 'an issue worldwide'

Asked to react to the union’s criticism regarding the shortage of nurses, Health Minister Chris Fearne said this was a worldwide issue.

He said that, in Malta, recruitment interviews were held before exam results were even out.

The health authorities have even called for a study, by the European branch of the WHO, about the low uptake of nursing as a profession so that the government would be better able to tackle the issue, the minister said.

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