A site in Swatar, across the Birkirkara bypass from Mater Dei Hospital, has been earmarked for the development of a new psychiatric hospital, according to a plan tabled in parliament.

Health Minister Chris Fearne tabled a site plan of the area in question, in reply to a parliamentary question by Nationalist MP Ian Vassallo.

The new psychiatric hospital will be located opposite Mater Dei Hospital car park and the two facilities will be linked by a tunnel, running beneath the Birkirkara bypass.

Fearne had announced the project in October last year, during a press conference following the 2023 Budget.

He had said that the land earmarked for the construction of a psychiatric hospital in Swatar had been passed on to the health authorities by the Lands Authority. Fearne had said that EU funds will be the primary source of funding for this facility. He had also said that designs for the new building were being prepared after the hospital’s design contract had been awarded.

Asked for the plans this week, the health ministry said work on the plans was still under way.

The new facility will provide acute care for patients with mental health issues.

Years of promises

The Labour Party’s 2017 and 2022 electoral manifestos both made mention of plans for a new mental health facility to supplement Mount Carmel.

The plan had been first mentioned by former health minister Godfrey Farrugia soon after the 2013 general election that saw Labour elected to power.

He had said the plan was to build the new psychiatric hospital close to Mater Dei “in the next three to four years” as the government planned to improve and modernise the service being offered at Mount Carmel.

In 2021, the association of psychiatrists had described Mount Carmel Hospital as being “not fit for purpose” and had called for a temporary mental health hospital until the new one is built.

Concern about the state of the Attard hospital had made headlines over recent years. Built in 1861, three-quarters of the ceilings at Mount Carmel have been condemned by architects who ordered the immediate closure of wards and that patients be moved to the more secure areas.

Times of Malta reported on numerous occasions that the foundations of one particular ward had given way and cracks were so wide that rats were sneaking in. The ward has since been demolished as part of the restructuring plan. 

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