The Labour Party's health proposals are useless unless the nurses' shortage issue is addressed, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses told the Prime Minister and Health Minister on Wednesday.
Union head Paul Pace, together with his team, met with Prime Minister Robert Abela and Health Minister Chris Fearne during a meeting ahead of the upcoming March 26 election. Journalists were only allowed to follow the first part of the meeting.
In his opening remarks, Pace said that while it was positive that the Labour Party had dedicated an entire section in its manifesto to health, the first issue that needed to be addressed was human resources.
"We have had hundreds of nurses leaving the profession, seeking better conditions in other countries. To make matters worse, a good number of those graduating are opting to go to medical school and so they never actually join the workforce as nurses," Pace said.
He noted that over 180 nurses had resigned from Mater Dei in recent months, and the numbers continued to increase as many were being poached by hospitals in the UK.
"They offer them free flights, free accommodation and the pay is better...of course they'll leave. Nurses here need better conditions and not clapping and coins," Pace said in reference to the commemorative coin handed to healthcare workers by the government as a token of appreciation for their work during the pandemic.
The union also said it hoped that the same efforts being promised to boost the number of teachers would also be made for nurses, who are also dealing with shortages.
On his part, Abela thanked the union and its members for their continued efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He then outlined the "salient points" related to health in the party's manifesto.
These include the setting up of a follow-up clinic for COVID patients, improved mental health care, free contraceptives for all women, the extension of IVF services, a new hospital in Gozo and more hospital beds and theatres to be equipped to operate during a pandemic.
Abela did not acknowledge the nurses' shortage while the journalists were still in the meeting. It is not known whether the issue was discussed during the second part of the meeting.