The nurses' union is calling on the health authorities to reduce the number of elective surgeries, warning staff cannot keep up with the increase in the number of COVID cases at Mater Dei.
In a statement, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses said there were over 150 COVID patients distributed across all wards at Mater Dei Hospital. Three whole wards, it noted, had been turned into COVID wards.
It described the situation as "desperate" because of the number of COVID cases and a chronic shortage in nurses.
Wards have been set up in corridors, a library and even the staff canteen, the union claimed.
According to data published by the Superintendence of Public Health, there were just under 7,000 active COVID-19 cases in the country as of Sunday. Authorities are not providing data about the number of cases requiring hospital treatment.
The MUMN sounded its warning hours after Health Minister Chris Fearne said the authorities were lifting further COVID measures and said there are just five people with the virus receiving intensive care. The union warned that politics should not be on the health minister's agenda.
MUMN said that over the past few hours, it had received over 20 calls from Mater Dei staff about a shortage of nurses and "the huge influx of COVID cases".
The nursing shortage is further compounded by the "huge amount of nurses sent on quarantine" with "several wards" being left with just two or three nurses instead of six, MUMN added.
The union claimed that three wards had to be dedicated fully to COVID patients and MUMN had resorted to issuing directives over the weekend to ensure the deployment of further nurses and the prevention of severe burnout.
Nurses are refusing to work overtime even when repeatedly requested by hospital management, the union added.
"The situation is desperate and the Health Ministry is refusing to reduce the number of elective surgeries to compensate for the huge influx of COVID cases and the high shortage of nurses.
Wards in corridors
The union also noted that wards have been set up in six areas that are not meant to host patients, including corridors, a library and the staff canteen.
Since these places were not intended to serve as wards, nurses found it harder to treat patients there.
"The huge number of COVID cases in all wards has reached an extent where every ward in MDH hosts COVID cases," the MUMN said in its statement.
It warned that in the absence of a reduction in elective surgeries, the risk of COVID transmission among staff and patients was higher.
There are more than 150 COVID patients spread across all wards, "posing a high risk of cross-infection among the whole hospital", it said.