The Commissioner for the Elderly has described the inquiry into the disappearance of a patient from St Vincent de Paul as ‘fair’ and said disciplinary action should be taken against staff who failed to follow basic procedures.
“What happened cannot simply be brushed aside as if nothing happened,” Godfrey La Ferla told Times of Malta.
“They should have been doing their job, which is taking care of vulnerable people. Instead, we are in a situation where there is a possibility that someone has died.”
La Ferla was reacting to Monday’s publication of an internal investigation into the disappearance of Carmelo Fino, also known as ‘Karmenu and Charlie’. He has now been missing since June 28.
In his inquiry findings, Judge Geoffrey Valenzia pinned the responsibility for Fino’s disappearance on eight staff members on duty that night.
A gate was left open and unguarded by four staff members, and another four did not provide a handover that would have proven whether routine checks had been carried out throughout the night.
The judge also said the staff misled those who were involved in the search.
The commissioner is still waiting for a copy of the report.
La Ferla said the staff at St Vincent De Paul do a “wonderful” job and take care of the patients as if they were family.
“Now, if you have one or two people who are not doing their job, they should be called out... at the end of the day, you are risking people’s lives,” he said.
He said the decision to take disciplinary action is in the hands of the home’s management, who will take the case to the Public Service commission .
They should have been doing their job, which is taking care of vulnerable people. Instead, we are in a situation where there is a possibility that someone has died- Commissioner for the Elderly Godfrey La Ferla
La Ferla echoed similar comments to that of Active Ageing Minister Jo Etienne Abela, who said the inquiry showed there was “not a system failure”.
He said Judge Valenzia’s conclusions were “reasonable” and the report is “fair.”
“I believe that vulnerable people need to be protected at all costs. If there are regulations saying the gate should be closed at a certain time, then this should be followed and if the staff should check on residents throughout the night, then this should be followed,” he said.
When asked if the home’s CEO should be held responsible, La Ferla argued otherwise.
“You cannot hold the CEO accountable for individual misdemeanours, especially if she was unaware of them,” he said.
“If she was flagged about these mishaps before and did not take action, then that is something completely different... but I doubt that is the case.”