More than 120 nurses left their job at Mater Dei Hospital last year and the figures for the first three months of this year indicate that 2022 is set to see off even more healthcare workers.
Whereas the average of annual resignations in 2019 and 2020 hovered around 50, this figure more than doubled last year.
And the number of resignations in the first quarter of this year has exceeded last year's for the same months, meaning that if the trend persists the country’s main hospital is set to lose even more of its valuable professional staff this year than it did in 2021.
The nurses’ union has repeatedly drawn the attention of the authorities to the shortage of staff and the ever-increasing list of resignations.
Last year, Times of Malta had reported that the country’s main hospital was losing up to three nurses a week.
Last week, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses again highlighted the strained situation at Mater Dei Hospital and spoke of the shortage of nursing staff while describing the situation as “desperate”.
The authorities were quick to shoot down the claim but they failed to comment about the staff shortage.
The exodus of nurses escalated during 2021 as many foreign nationals who were trained here opted to leave for better opportunities in the UK, Germany and other European countries.
Data indicates that, whereas in 2019 and 2020, one out of every two nurse resignations consisted of foreign workers, in 2021, the resignations by foreign nurses shot up to four out of every five. Figures for this year so far have not been officially published.
During the pandemic, many of the foreign workers managed to secure better jobs in other countries
Foreign healthcare workers are trained in Malta to ensure that they are in line with local standards. However, on completion of their training, such foreign nurses are not bound to work at local hospitals for a specified period of time.
During the pandemic, many of the foreign workers managed to secure better jobs in other countries, which also allowed them to be joined by their families, something which many of them had tried for months or even years to bring into effect while working in Malta.
The daily resignations, coupled with nurses being quarantined because of COVID-19 continues to add to the already strained situation in wards.
Meanwhile, nurses are also claiming that COVID-19 protocols are making their jobs far more difficult. Practices for the handling of infected patients are lengthy and require two nurses to treat one patient at any one time.
Younger nurses who joined Mater Dei Hospital in recent years are already feeling burnout and have expressed a sense of helplessness and frustration.
One such nurse said that even new graduates are shying away from hospital, with some of them never even commencing a career in nursing after having completed their training at the university.
More veteran nurses who spoke to Times of Malta said the situation has been getting progressively worse and the authorities are ignoring all the warning signs.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one senior nurse said staff members do not speak up for fear of becoming targets of bullying.
Times of Malta asked the health authorities for the number of nurses employed in all local hospitals and for the same figures for previous years. So far, the questions remain unanswered.