Updated | Exasperated nurses launch ultimatum over understaffed wards

Facing a situation where there’s only one nurse monitoring a single ward with up to 40 patients and more, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses is requesting an urgent meeting with the government

miriam
Miriam Dalli
11 April 2017, 11:24am
Last updated on 11 April 2017, 3:54pm
MUMN secretary general Colin Galea (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
MUMN secretary general Colin Galea (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Nurses outside SVPR launch ultimatum
Exasperated and understaffed, nurses at the state elderly residence in Marsa have launched an ultimatum in a bid to attract the government’s attention amid accusations that the management at Saint Vincent de Paul Residence had implemented cost-cutting measures at the expense of residents and workers.

Flanked by numerous workers who took an hour out of their break to make their appeal, MUMN secretary general Colin Galea said that the management had resorted to cutting nurses’ vacation leave and study leave instead of finding solutions to a prevailing problem.

A study commissioned jointly by the MUMN and the management of SVPR has found that the number of nurses had to double, increasing to four nurses per 40 residents during the day and two nurses per 40 residents during the night.

“Instead of acting on it and gradually increase the number of nurses in the numerous wards, the management simply shelved the report,” Galea told reporters outside SVPR.

SVPR hosts some 1,000 residents and employs close to 300 nurses, 80% of which are on a full-time basis.

Galea recounted how the government last year moved to employ more carers – through private contractor Healthmark, a subsidiary of the DB Group – leading to complaints by residents and their relatives.

The nurses took an hour out of their break to voice their concerns (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
The nurses took an hour out of their break to voice their concerns (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
“The carers supplied by the private contractor are foreigners and there are language and cultural barriers,” Galea said, adding that some of them were also illiterate.

The majority of the carers, the MUMN said, were from Pakistan or India. He said that, along with their inability to communicate properly with the residents, the biggest problem was that the carers were only working two hours a night: between 7.30pm and 8.30pm and between 4.30am and 5.30am.

According to Galea, the management had also provided the carers with an area where they can sleep. Nurses reported that the carers spend the majority of their shift in these rooms and limiting their job to changing diapers.

“They do not realise when a resident is going to develop bedsores and the MUMN cannot understand how the management can choose carers over nurses to carry out this job,” he said.

Galea accused the management of cost-cutting measures at the expense of nurses, whose applications for vacation leave and study leave were being rejected or withdrawn.

Galea warned of the negative physical and psychological marks the situation was leaving on nurses, with the situation becoming as “ridiculous” as denying vacation leave on Sunday.

“We are requesting a meeting with parliamentary secretary Justyne Caruana to avoid launching an industrial action,” Galea said.

Asked how the situation could be improved if there are no available nurses to increase the staff complement, Galea said that he was confident a solution could be found including through the use of overtime.

In a reaction, the parliamentary secretary for the elderly said that 119 nurses were employed over the past three years and that there were continuous efforts to increase the number of workers.

The parliamentary secretariat said that care assistants increased, to the point that their daily contribution amounts to 650 hours, allowing nurses to focus on their professional role.

The parliamentary secretariat said that all carers working at SVPR are qualified and underwent scrutiny by the nurses’ section itself. Less than 25% of the 500 carers are foreigners.

The SVPR administration categorically denied allegations that the workers’ vacation leave and study leave was being rejected, adding that 98% of the requested vacation leave is being honoured.

The approval rate of study leave was at 100%, it added.

The secretariat added that Justyne Caruana was and remains open to any meetings with MUMN.

miriam
Miriam Dalli joined MaltaToday.com.mt in 2010 and was assistant editor fr...