The situation at Mount Carmel Hospital was “critical” and had reached “rock bottom”, a nurses’ union spokesman said on Wednesday.
Sentiments of “shock” and “deep concern” were expressed by NGOs and patients’ relatives who contacted the Times of Malta.
The Times of Malta reported on Tuesday that a teenager found dead last Sunday, a day after escaping from the mental hospital in Attard, had not been kept under constant watch despite strict orders from psychiatrists when he checked himself into the facility on Friday.
A spokesman for the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses acknowledged the “critical situation” at the hospital, noting nurses were unable to give the care prescribed by psychiatrists due to severe staff shortages.
“The situation has been deteriorating over the past 10 years, and we have now reached rock bottom”, he said.
“Last weekend’s tragic death is the result of what we have been telling the government for years.
“Something, very fast, must be done, as these deaths are not justified in any manner,” the spokesman insisted.
Hospital sources said the situation had “reached desperate proportions”. They pointed the finger at the management and the Health Ministry, accusing them of not giving any priority to solving the situation.
“We can tell you today there are 22 patients who are supposed to be under constant watch. But it cannot happen, because there are no nurses,” the sources noted.
They said that in certain wards, there was only one nurse for between 30 and 40 patients.
They pointed out that during the last electoral campaign, many nurses and hospital carers had been “accommodated for political reasons” and sent to do “more comfortable assignments”. They were not replaced, and the staff complement was thus reduced further, the sources said.
Relatives of patients who contacted the Times of Malta expressed “deep concern”, saying they feared that the lack of adequate services would result in similar situations to last Sunday’s.
“We have been begging the hospital management for years to no avail. They tell us the ministry does not give them funds to get the necessary resources,” said the mother of a young patient.
“I don’t want my son to end up dead because there are no nurses. This cannot happen in a country that boasts of a thriving economy.
“I will sue the government if something happens to my son because of such negligence,” the woman, 63, warned.
The Health Ministry refused to answer questions on the care at Mount Carmel, citing ongoing investigations. Phrom – a platform representing some 30 human rights organisations – said it was “extremely shocked at news of the tragic death of a teenager”.
Such news, it added, was heart-breaking, not only because it involved the death of a young person but also because it appeared to have been the result of institutional failures.
“At a time when Malta boasts unprecedented economic growth, it seems unable to take care of its most vulnerable”, the NGOs said.
They urged the authorities to identify what preventive mechanisms had to be immediately put in place.
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