The Health Ministry will investigate the nurses union boss over allegations that he claimed to have worked overtime while on holiday last February.
The ministry's statement came after Labour political pundit Manuel Cuschieri alleged on Friday that Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) president Paul Pace claimed to have worked several hours of overtime at his workplace in Mount Carmel Hospital when he was, in fact, on holiday in Egypt.
Speaking to Times of Malta on Saturday, Pace categorically denied the allegations.
But the ministry said it will investigate.
"The ministry has taken note of these allegations and will be investigating them in due course," a spokesperson for the Health Ministry told Times of Malta.
Cuschieri cries foul
On his radio show 'Linja Diretta' on Smash on Friday afternoon, Cuschieri claimed that Pace went on holiday to Egypt between February 16 and 28 and was on leave.
But despite being on vacation and not being able to report to work at Mount Carmel, Pace reported having worked overtime from 12pm till 6pm on the 16th, from 10am till 6pm on the 18th, from 8am till 6pm on the 26th, and from 1pm till 7pm on the 28th.
"And the 26th was a Sunday, so he was asking to be paid double," Cuschieri said.
Cuschieri went on to pressure the authorities to investigate the allegations, saying that if the responsible people do not take the necessary action, he was prepared to pursue the story and continue to speak about it because he is convinced his information is correct.
"If they dig, they will find that what I'm saying is precisely true. If action is not taken I will not stop and I will reveal other things."
In another video on Saturday afternoon, Cuschieri alleged the same story could have possibly repeated itself last month when Pace was on holiday in Sicily. He said the nurses union boss could have potentially claimed overtime while on that holiday and during another, separate trip in Portugal last September and October.
Pace denies wrongdoing
Contacted for comment, Pace denied the allegations.
"I deny all the allegations leveled at me. I will continue to work with serenity and I will not let anyone intimidate me. And I wait without fear for the investigation to conclude," he said.
The allegations surfaced amid an ongoing dispute between the MUMN and the Health Ministry over nurses' working conditions.
Two days before Cuschieri's radio programme, Pace had just suspended a series of directives that were issued last week to nurses at health centres and at the Gozo General Hospital.
The directives were part of a widespread industrial action that the union launched in March, claiming there was no money for nurses as talks on a new collective agreement stalled.
The directives had raised concerns by other healthcare professions, particularly in view of the risks to patients from delayed surgeries.
Under the directives, nurses at health centres stopped accompanying doctors at health centre clinics, stopped vaccinations relating to travel and stopped clerical work including answering the phone.
Those at the Gozo hospital had been ordered not to assist at the dermatology, neuro, urology, DOP, SOP, paediatrics, ophthalmic, cardio, ENT, rheumatology, nephrology, and respiratory clinics.
They were also ordered not to perform any pre-ops excluding confirmed oncology operations and paediatrics operations.
The directives were suspended as of Thursday and the MUMN will call an extraordinary general meeting on Tuesday where its 4,000 members can vote on the government's final proposal of the new collective agreement.