Patients at the run-down Mount Carmel Hospital are being moved into corridors, nurses have claimed, in the latest measure aimed at tackling bed shortages at a facility which has been partially condemned.
The move has prompted the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) to instruct its members to refuse to add any additional beds in wards.
Union president Paul Pace said that patients from two wards had already been moved into the corridors of other wards.
A Health Ministry spokesperson replied to questions by saying that “at no time were patients nursed in corridors at Mount Carmel Hospital”.
The island’s only mental health hospital has repeatedly made the headlines for the wrong reasons in recent years as its state continues to deteriorate despite assurances that it is being upgraded.
Earlier this year, Times of Malta reported that around three-quarters of the wards at the Attard psychiatric hospital, built in 1861, have condemned ceilings.
In one ward in particular, the foundations had given way and cracks were so wide that rats were sneaking in, a technical report concluded.
The hospital’s run-down state again came under the spotlight when a former senior official told a parliamentary committee that patients had been made to endure freezing cold showers at the height of winter because there was no hot water for months on end.
At no time were patients nursed in corridors at Mount Carmel Hospital
Health Minister Chris Fearne has repeatedly pointed to the government’s “10-year plan” for the hospital, which includes measures to move towards treating most mental health patients through community care.
Mr Pace said the decision to move patients into corridors proved that the situation at Mount Carmel “is getting worse with every passing day”.
“MUMN will not accept that added beds are to be placed in corridors of wards since this will cause a further distressing situation which patients and nursing staff should not endure,” Mr Pace said.
The nurses have been instructed to “refuse to add beds in their wards” and told not to accept any more patients when the wards are full.
Mr Pace added that, despite the government having committed to starting works by August, contractors have yet to enter the facility’s doors.
If no contractors showed up by the end of the month, he warned, the MUMN would order strikes in September.
A Health Ministry spokesperson said that a budget of €30 million had been allocated to renovating Mount Carmel Hospital wards and that the first refurbished ward had already been opened.
“A second renovated ward will be inaugurated at the end of this month and a third ward later this year,” he said.
“Works at the hospital are part of a comprehensive plan for mental healthcare in Malta which was launched in July.”