The shortage of hospital beds was the result of three factors - health centres which were not well-equipped to provide all services available at Mater Dei, a shortage of nurses and a lack of homes equipped to deal with long term care, Health Minister Joseph Cassar said this morning.

Speaking during the launch of a new system digital X Ray system at the Mosta Health Centre, Dr Cassar said this was another step in the government’s project to boost the primary health care system.

Through this system, any X Ray taken would be immediately sent to Mater Dei where it would be seen by a bone specialist and a diagnosis is given, reducing a patient’s need to travel as well as waiting times. It would also reduce pressure on the hospital.

Eventually, this system would also be available at Floriana and Paola.

Dr Cassar said that the backlog problem in the system was also due to a shortage of nurses, which was a worldwide problem.

The government had issued an open call for applications for nurses for which people from anywhere in the world could apply.

People, the minister said, were living longer and becoming more dependent on health services as they grew older so nurses who would focus solely on long term care were needed.

He noted that the Nurses Council, which was an autonomous body, was processing 40 applications from Pakistani nurses to see if these would eventually be registered in Malta.

The council also processes applications from newly graduated nurses before they can start working.

This would enable them to work anywhere in the EU. The process took time and was solely the responsibility of the council.

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