The state cannot continue poaching nurses from the private sector to avoid a shortage of carers at state hospitals, union chief Paul Pace warned on Friday.
Speaking at a Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses conference, Pace said the nursing profession risked a “crisis” if the shortage was not addressed in some other way.
He claimed that the healthcare system mainly poached nurses from private health companies and the current employment model was shifting towards that employed in middle eastern countries, where Maltese nurses were assigned managerial positions while the majority of the workforce was made up of third-country nationals.
“I believe that every country should be self-sufficient,” Pace said.
“This doesn’t mean that we should employ Maltese nurses only, but we should ensure we have enough university graduates to meet the standards of healthcare we want to provide."
He urged the authorities to understand what was driving people to abandon the profession for greener pastures or better salaries. Last year, at least 22 nursing graduates could only work part-time as nurses, as they had enrolled in courses in medical school to advance their studies.
He also called for family-friendly measures for a "workforce that is largely populated with women who are still raising children".
Pace warned that the government could no longer continue to recognise the problem but fail to take action.
“Nobody wants to work in a sector where there is a shortage of staff - it is demotivating and creates burnout. If we don’t address the issue, the system might collapse.”
Nurses: best resource for health sector
Addressing the same conference, Health Minister Chris Fearne told nurses that they were the “best resource of the health sector”.
"Health professionals join the healthcare sector with the aim of being of service to people. We achieve this by bettering the things we already do and embracing change and innovation,” Fearne said.
He added while change could bring anxiety and uncertainty, especially among veterans of the profession, it was also integral to broadening the horizons of healthcare.
Referring to the nurse shortage, Fearne said that hiring third-country nationals to fill in vacancies would ultimately bring down the quality of service.
He said this was not because third-country nationals were any less dedicated or qualified for the profession, but it made a difference when staff was trained and educated by the local system.