Around three-quarters of the wards at Mount Carmel Psychiatric Hospital, in Attard, have condemned ceilings, Times of Malta has learnt.
In one ward, the foundations too gave way and cracks were so wide that rats were sneaking in, according to a technical report.
In their report, architects declared rooms in most wards as being unsafe and ordered their immediate closure so patients were being transferred to adjacent wards that also had structural problems in the ceiling, sources close to the mental health hospital said.
They said most of the building, constructed in 1861, had been condemned and all 425 patients were now crammed into the few remaining wards still considered safe.
Photographs taken inside the hospital show scaffolding being used to support parts of the ceiling at risk of collapse. In some areas, architects instructed workers to install metal support jacks to hold old beams in place.
When contacted, Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses president Paul Pace confirmed that the situation at the hospital was “dire” and had “spiralled out of control”.
“We have nurses who do not want to continue working in such a dangerous place. As a union, we are ready to instruct our members to walk out but we have a responsibility towards our patients. The authorities are shirking their responsibility towards patients and workers. Had Mount Carmel been a private hospital, the public health authorities would have withdrawn its licence and closed it down with no questions asked,” he said.
“There is no patient dignity because they’re crammed like sardines, which is so humiliating. The bed proximity, which according to European standards should be 1.5 metres, is down to a few centimetres, with barely enough space for nurses to reach a patient for treatment,” Mr Pace added.
“They’re worse than animals. It’s like a pigsty,” he commented.
He recalled a male ward was closed down about two years ago and refurbishment works started, however, after spending €1.5 million on the water and electricity systems, workers realised the ceilings were not safe, so it remained closed.
“In a climate where direct orders are the order of the day, including for an extension of St Vincent de Paul complex, we have been waiting for something to be done about Mount Carmel for too long now.
“It seems things which are justified do not get the same treatment. We expected the government to award direct orders to end the imminent danger patients and nurses have to face on a daily basis,” Mr Pace said.
He said the union had been invited to sit on a taskforce on refurbishment but when it asked for timelines, the authorities said none could be given so the union refused to participate.
Questions sent to the Health Ministry on Maundy Thursday remained unanswered at the time of writing yesterday.