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Nurses’ union take stand over use of surgical wards at Mater Dei hospital

MUMN appeals to public to call customer care ahead of non-urgent operations for bed allocations.

1 July 2012, 12:00am
The MUMN also said its members will not have wards used by consultant surgeons as their own outpatients’ clinic.
The nurses' union MUMN has made an appeal to the general public to call Mater Dei Hospital's customer care office before coming for non-urgent operations, due to directives the union has issued over the lack of change-of-dressings procedures after patients are discharged.

The union said such patients were being made to wait entire an entire day in the reception area or even in the kitchens of various surgical wards, to be given a bed, without anybody attending to their basic needs.

"Nurses will no longer accept such patients to wait unattended. MUMN has insisted with the management of Mater Dei that such patients, as in truly state-of-the-art hospitals, should either call from home to customer care to check if a bed is vacant or be sent in an admission lounge to wait comfortably while some one attends to their needs," MUMN secretary-general Paul Pace said.

Nurses have also been directed to direct patients coming to Mater Dei for a check-up prior to an operation, to customer care.

According to the union, surgeons who are not complying with hospital rules are sending clients to have their check-up in the hospital wards rather than the pre-operative clinic. "Wards should not serve as an outpatients department. Both the design and the nursing complement are specifically for the patients who are being treated in the wards. It's a pity that hospital management feels impotent in front of this small number of surgeons and do not take further steps to regulate the matter," Pace said.

Nurses will also refuse to take care of patients sent for a check-up in the wards. "The limited number of nurses present in the wards is there to focus on the patients recovering after a general operation," Pace said.

The MUMN also said its members will not have wards used by consultant surgeons as their own outpatients' clinic.

The union said patients discharged from hospital will have to get a change of dressing from their nearest health centres. "If a consultant, for clinical reasons, wants to review such clients this should not be done in the ward but in his outpatients' clinic. Wards are not to be used by certain consultants as outpatients' purposes."

Pace said surgeons were conveniently treating private clients and allowing them to beat the hospital queues with the excuse of 'clinical' reasons. "While the majority of the surgeons cooperate with management, certain surgeons feel that they should not, for their own personal reasons... Wards are not outpatients departments or health centres, and the limited numbers of nurses present on these wards are obliged to focus on their patients."

This is the third set of industrial directives the MUMN has issued in Mater Dei since embarking on a public tiff with health minister Joe Cassar over the problems of bed shortages, and other shortcomings inside Mater Dei hospital.

"The minister has preferred to hide behind a task force instead of grabbing the bull by the horns and address such issues. The minister is there to defend the patients left waiting in corridors and in ward kitchens, and not to adopt a laid-back attitude so as not to irritate certain surgeons. Mater Dei is [no longer] a patient-care focused hospital but a consultants' one," Pace said.

The MUMN secretary-general said other European hospitals had clear protocols regulating operative measures to reduce waiting time, but accused Mater Dei management never embraced any patient-friendly measures.

"The rule of the mightiest is the rule of the day. Nurses empathise with the general public kept waiting even for several hours in the emergency department, in the corridors or at the outpatients department. No wonder international surveys classify Mater Dei Hospital as a hospital where patients' rights are not observed," Pace said.

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