The nurses union has suspended directives and will be calling an extraordinary general meeting where its 4,000 members can vote on the government's final proposal.

The decision was taken by the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses council on Wednesday, just over an hour before a scheduled conciliatory meeting called by the government. 

Sources said the extraordinary meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 18 and all those attending will be handed a photocopy of the government’s proposal as presented to the MUMN.

From 7am on Thursday, the wide-ranging directives will be suspended.

Under the directives, nurses at health centres stopped accompanying doctors at health centre clinics, stopped vaccinations relating to travel and stopped clerical work including answering the phone.

Those at the Gozo hospital had been ordered not to assist at the dermatology, neuro, urology, DOP, SOP, paediatrics, ophthalmic, cardio, ENT, rheumatology, nephrology, and respiratory clinics.

They were also ordered not to perform any pre-ops excluding confirmed oncology operations and paediatrics operations.

The MUMN had ordered widespread industrial action in March, claiming there was no money for nurses as talks on a new collective agreement stalled. The directives had raised concerns by other healthcare professions, particularly in view of the risks to patients from delayed surgeries.

The council said in a statement it was planning to put the proposed sectoral agreement to its members “so that they can decide whether it is acceptable or not”.

“The MUMN notes that the government kept burying its head in the sand and does not want to find a solution to this issue. It is even describing this package as “strong proposals” and “will give nurses the best conditions they have ever had. Now it will be the nurses and midwives who decide about this,” it said.

It added: “The government is happy with a fragile health system rather than strengthening and motivating the nurses and midwives in their work with the patient. It clearly seems that the government has closed the door in the face of nurses and midwives.”

The decision was taken just over an hour before a conciliation meeting, in line with the collective agreement, which was rejected by the nurses union.

Instead, it accused the government of a U-turn when it proposed a conciliatory meeting. It said that just last Thursday, the government's representatives had told it that they were ready to discuss the sectorial agreement at Cabinet level so as to seek additional funding.

Also, earlier in the day, the Commissioner for Health within the Office of the Ombudsman, Professor Ray Galea, offered to mediate for a solution to the nurses’ dispute which is affecting patient care.

“The Commissioner is extending his offer to facilitate a prompt and fair resolution, ensuring that the interests of all stakeholders are fairly represented,” his spokesperson told Times of Malta on Wednesday.

It followed a letter he sent to Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses president, Paul Pace, and the permanent secretary of the Health Ministry, Joseph Chetcuti.

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