Widespread industrial action by nurses on Thursday was a “total success”, their union said, apologising to patients impacted by the directives.

The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses ordered industrial action at Mater Dei and other hospitals, health centres and elderly homes following a breakdown of negotiations with the government on a new sectoral agreement.

They were joined by nursing aides and other health workers, who were ordered by the General Workers’ Union not to perform tasks usually carried out under the supervision of a nurse.

MUMN general secretary Colin Galea told the Times of Malta the union was satisfied with the implementation of the industrial action but had not yet had any further contact from the government on the new agreement.

The union, he said, had received indications that the Health Ministry was awaiting feedback from the Finance Ministry on the way forward.

“These directives naturally have an impact on the patients, which is why they are a last resort,” Mr Galea said.

There is the basis for a way forward to be reached

“We spent eight months waiting to start discussions on the sectoral agreement and another seven months negotiating. We apologise to all patients for the inconvenience but our work is that of a trade union and we must protect our members’ interests.”

Video: Matthew Mirabelli

At health centres in Paola and Qormi on Thursday morning, most patients who spoke to the Times of Malta said they had noticed very little disruption as a result of the industrial action. Some reported longer-than-usual waiting times while one was turned away when he showed up for a minor procedure.

Asked to what extent patients had been impacted by the action, the Health Ministry would only say it had taken steps to ensure that service disruption was kept to a minimum and that patient safety was safeguarded at all times.

“Acknowledging that talks with MUMN have not been easy, the Health Ministry believes there is the basis for a way forward to be reached and is keeping channels of communication with MUMN open,” a spokeswoman said.

MUMN nurses at Mater Dei had, among other things, been instructed not to participate in ward rounds and the transfer of patients going for elective operations to any theatres, endoscopy rooms or suites, except those awaiting a caesarean section.

They were not present at the main operating theatre or assist on elective lists before 10.30am, while at the endoscopy unit they did not assist with any procedure before 10.30am. At the intensive therapy unit, nurses were told not to ambulate any patients or dress the deceased.

The action affected staff at Mater Dei Hospital, the intensive care unit, St Vincent de Paul Residence, Mount Carmel Hospital, Karin Grech Rehabilitation Hospital, Gozo General Hospital, Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre, health centres, the national immunisation services, the Well Baby Clinic, the Commcare Unit, elderly homes and Sir Paul Boffa Hospital.

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