Bernard Grech tells nurses' union wages have to improve

Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses President Paul Pace says 2021 saw an exodus of foreign nurses from Malta

PN leader Bernard Grech with MUMN representatives
PN leader Bernard Grech with MUMN representatives

Wages for nurses have to improve to compensate for the risks and responsibilities that come with the job, Bernard Grech has told nurses' representatives.

The Nationalist Party leader said that rather than incentivise Steward Healthcare, a future PN government will incentivise the profession. “These are indispensable professions, and conditions and wages have to improve... We have to address the issue at source and although foreign workers are needed, they can’t be the order of the day,” Grech said.

He argued that wages had to improve. “It is no longer attractive to work in the field, so therefor the priority has to be the sectoral agreement. We have to anticipate certain problems and government can’t keep on managing by crisis.”

Grech was discussing the shortage of nurses at public hospitals with representatives of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) at their new headquarters in Qormi on Tuesday morning.

PN candidate Stephen Spiteri, a doctor himself, said the public medical service has taken a hit, due to lack of infrastracture and the long “exagerated” hours that nurses have to work.

MUMN President Paul Pace stressed that Malta is dealing with a severe shortage of nurses and other medical staff. “Each ward is supposed to have six nurses but right now we’re lucky if we have three.” 

Pace said that as a result, many nurses can’t take any leave or end up having to cancel it. 

According to Pace in 2021, there was an “exodus” of nurses due to the migration of nurses from third countries. He said that around 400 of such nurses left Malta during the year, whilst another 100 young Maltese moved abroad or to other economic sectors. 

Pace emphasised that the sectoral agreement must make it a priority to focus on staff retention and attracting youths to the profession. “It hurts when nurses and other medical professionals leave the job. This has to stop immediately and measures have to be taken,” Pace said. 

MUMN suggested that similar to a scheme launched during a PN administration, student nurses should get a minimum wage instead of stipends. “You can provide no medical service without nurses. We are now operating at a bare minimum.” 

He said the constant watch service at Mount Carmel and Karin Grech hospitals was discontinued, and it was replaced with contract workers.  

MUMN general secretary Colin Galea said the privatisation agreement of the three hospitals with VGH and later Steward did not help and added uncertainty. 

“MUMN at first was not against the privatisation deal, as we had made certain that the management would remain. Today there are many issues of human resources, as it is difdicult to eatablish whether Steward or the government are responsible.”