Malta’s nurses and midwives have joined the country’s doctors in warning of industrial action unless mass events including large-scale international festivals are cancelled by Monday.

In a scathing statement, the Malta Union of Nurses and Midwives accused Prime Minister Robert Abela of choosing “greedy businessmen” over the lives of vulnerable people. 

It is directing its members not to carry out a wide range of duties, including directives that would impact non-urgent surgery. 

Earlier this week, the union that represents doctors ordered its members to only perform emergency duties if mass events aren’t cancelled by the start of next week.

Four major music festivals, including the famous BPM electronic music festival, are planned for August and September, designed to attract thousands of revellers from overseas. 

The organisers and the government are under immense pressure to cancel them after a surge in COVID-19 cases linked to a religious festa celebration and a three-day hotel party.

Thirty nurses are currently in quarantine as a precaution.

Paul Pace, president of the MUMN, said the prime minister was “the least concerned” for healthcare workers and was “undermining the success” achieved during the height of the crisis.

He said Abela’s decision to ignore medical experts advising against holding the mass events was adding “insult to injury”. 

“We are informed that the actions of the prime minister for allowing mass events are not in favour of the economy but in favour of a few greedy businessmen that are fattening their pockets with money which is more important than the lives of the vulnerable people and the healthcare workers.”

Nurses across Malta and Gozo have been ordered not to perform a range of duties including washing or lift patients or assisting in non-urgent surgery. Physiotherapists have also been instructed not to see new patients or carry out home visits. 

Pace revealed that Abela had not met the union since he took up office in January.

The statement also criticised the tourism minister, as being “irresponsible” by telling the media that tourism authorities were prepared.

“It is clear now with the increase of covid cases that this minister does not know what she is doing,” he said.

Aside from guaranteeing the cancellation of mass events, the union is also making four other demands. They are: nurses on quarantine being allowed Sunday and feasts allowance; meal allowances for healthcare workers in elderly homes; 12 hours of voluntary leave to healthcare workers on 12-hour shifts; employment of third-country national nurses to address a shortage; and child support arrangement if school closure take place.

Wide-ranging directives

The union warned that unless its  demands are met by Monday, it is directing all nurses to: 

  • Not to wash any patients;
  • Not to ambulate patients to an armchair from a bed and vice versa;
  • Not to accompany patients to X-rays, theatres, out-patients etc;
  • Limit the filling of forms to the nursing report, treatment charts, output/input charting, blood glucose monitoring, TPR and Sp02 monitoring; 
  • Physiotherapists working in SLH are not to see more than three patients face to face per day;
  • Physiotherapists working in the wards at Karin Grech and Gozo hospital  are not to access new patients and are not to carry out home visits;
  • ECG Technicians in all hospitals are not to take ECGs which are sent and ordered through the outpatients departments and not to take any ECGs requested as a review between 5am and 7am;
  • Only four operating theatres are to be used for emergency purposes only. All elective surgery is to be stopped or done without any nurses;
  • At the Primary Health Care Department nurses will not be involved in taking blood and application of plaster.

Pharmacists declare industrial dispute

The Chamber of Pharmacists also declared an industrial dispute, calling the holding of mass events 'irresponsible'.

It accused politicians of throwing caution to the wind by allowing permits and international advertising for large festivals. 

"No lessons have been learnt from our collective sacrifices, the sad deaths of our dear COVID-19 victims, and the suffering of their families, nor have lessons been learnt from the horrific experiences of our neighbouring countries and globally."

It said it held the government and mass events organisers and participants responsible for jeopardising the health and safety of pharmacists. It said it was declaring an industrial dispute and putting pharmacists on alert for directives.

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