The government is expected to meet the nurses’ union in the coming days ahead of wide-ranging directives due to come into force next week and aimed at impacting the entire public health system.
A spokeswoman told Times of Malta that Health Minister Chris Fearne would continue discussing the collective agreement with the Malta Union of Nurses and Midwives.
The spokeswoman was replying to questions from this newspaper on what the government planned to do if the industrial action started, potentially bringing the whole system to a grinding halt.
Apart from referring to the meeting between the minister and the nurses’ union, she would not say whether the government had, in fact, drawn up a plan to ensure that patients would not suffer in the eventuality of widespread industrial action.
In an e-mail sent to members last week, the union listed a series of directives nurses and midwives were to follow once the action was called.
Nurses will not wash patients, do ward rounds, distribute food or transfer patients
Citing the breakdown of negotiations on a new sectoral agreement as the reason for the directives, MUMN secretary general Colin Galea told members in the e-mail they should be fully aware of what these entailed in order to be “fully prepared”.
He insisted the union had to be “effective” through its action, adding it was “high time to stand up and be counted”. In accordance with the directives, the nurses and midwives at Mater Dei and all other hospitals, health centres and homes for the elderly will not participate in the washing of patients, ward rounds, food distribution and patient transfers, among other responsibilities.
Healthcare sources told this newspaper such wide-ranging action affecting all hospitals, health centres and homes would surely cause disruptions, with patients being the ones suffering most. They added that a strategy was needed to ensure patients’ needs were still tended to in case of industrial action.