St Vincent de Paul excluded from elderly care home standards

Hospital services at Malta’s largest elderly home allow its exemption from new national standards for old people’s homes

St. Vincent de Paul is home to some 1,200 long-term elderly residents
St. Vincent de Paul is home to some 1,200 long-term elderly residents

A new set of national minimum standards for old people’s homes will not apply to St. Vincent de Paul, despite it housing around 1,200 long-term elderly residents.  

Explained in an annex at the back page of the standards document, a ‘care home’ is defined as a “house or other premises established for the express purpose of caring for an housing older persons, whether for reward or not, excluding the St Vincent de Paul long term care facility, which is a sui generis [stand-alone] facility.”  

When asked to explain this anomaly, parliamentary secretary for the elderly Justyne Caruana explained that Malta’s largest elderly home is not just a nursing home, but also provides hospital services. 

“In recent decades, St. Vincent de Paul has been transformed from an institution to a long-term care facility that meets most of the functions that are generally attributed to geriatric hospitals,” Caruana told MaltaToday.

“These include medical services, dentistry, nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry, speech language therapy and pharmaceutical services. 

“Hence it is best treated as a ‘sui generis’ facility rather than as a ‘care home’ in the strict sense of the word. 

“This was proposed and agreed by experts during consultation stage about the complex social and health care needs arising from the increasing life expectancy in Malta.” 

However, a spokesperson for the Foundation for Active Ageing (FXAM)  – the elderly rights NGO that had drafted the original standards – insisted that the Marsa home is primarily a residential home and not a hospital. 

“Many homes to which the standards will apply provide some degree of nursing care, and indeed are also ‘long-term care facilities’ since most of their residents will remain there until they die.” 

 

Exemptions to minimum room size only in exceptional cases’

The standards, which all elderly homes will have to adopt by 2025, also specify the minimum size requirements for bedrooms. 

Specifically, each single room must have at least 12 square metres of usable space, while any new double rooms must allot at least 8 square metres of usable space per resident.  

The FXAM – who has hailed the standards as “a major milestone in the evolution of Malta’s welfare state” – are concerned about a potential loophole with regards shared bedrooms in pre-existing homes.

The standard says that, in such cases “at least 8 square metres [for each resident in shared rooms] shall be made available within a maximum of 10 years… as long as premises’ structural parameters permits.” 

Similarly, a standard requiring homes to provide at least one assisted bath to no more than five residents, states that non-compliant homes must “meet this requirement within a maximum of 10 years as long as premises’ structural parameters permits”. 

“Our concern is that, at least after 10 years from now, no older person will any longer be confined to a pokey cupboard-sized bedroom, nor have to share rooms where the residents’ beds are so close they can hold hands, and bathroom facilities are used by so many.” 

When questioned, Caruana explained that those two standards would only be exempted in “exceptional cases”, to homes whose perimeters disallow further structural change. 

“I am positive that most care homes are characterised by structural perimeters that allow the extension of bedrooms and bathrooms, and where needed, care homes will certainly implement the necessary architectural structural changes so that the standards will be met,” she said. 

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