[WATCH] Union protests Steward’s staffing of foreign nurses in Gozo

Nurses union wants ‘end to impunity’ of Steward Healthcare over foreign staff

MUMN president Paul Pace (centre). Photo: James Bianchi
MUMN president Paul Pace (centre). Photo: James Bianchi
Union protests Steward’s staffing of foreign nurses in Gozo

The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) has called on the Prime Minister to intervene and stop Steward Healthcare from continuing to employ foreign nurses at the detriment of Gozitan nurses working in Malta and their families.

Standing with nurses on the steps of Castille, MUMN President Paul Pace said the private healthcare provider seemed to enjoy impunity by refusing to transfer Gozitan nurses, despite the agreement the union has always had with the government for nurses in Gozo to work there.

“It is unacceptable that Steward Health Care are to employ foreign nurses at Gozo General Hospital when Gozitan nurses are working in Malta waiting to be transferred,” Pace said.

“The government has a responsibility to Gozitan nurses and their families to ensure that they are transferred to Gozo at the earliest possibility. Make no mistake, this is not because we are against foreign workers, however, there is no reason why these workers could not be transferred to Karen Grech, where we know there are already plenty of foreign workers to make space for Goztian nurses at the general hospital.”

Pace said the union would continue to protect the interest of its members on the transfer list – which he said entailed having an ID registered in Gozo. 

He said there was no way of knowing how much foreign workers were being paid. “This might be an issue of the healthcare provider taking advantage of being able to pay foreign workers less.”

Pace said that Steward were showing “a great lack of respect” in employing the foreign nurses.“A meeting was meant to take place on Monday between the union and Steward Health Care facilitated by the Health Ministry however they would prefer to go to court. It appears Steward Health Care does not even listen to the government,” he said. 

Pace said that now that the worst of COVID-19 has passed and things were slowly returning to normal, there was no reason why Gozitan nurses should not be able to work in Gozo.

Steward Health Care statement 

In a statement Steward Health Care said following a communication that took place yesterday between the health care provider and the Health Ministry, it has reiterated its request for the ministry to release nurses from the Gozo transfer list of nurses so they can be deployed in the Gozo General Hospital (GGH) to resolve the current impasse in the interest of all stakeholders, and most importantly the patients and staff of the hospital. 

“Steward categorically denies the claims made by the union that it never wanted to deploy Gozitan nurses working in Malta. Since March this year, Steward has been requesting repeatedly for the release of Gozitan nurses employed in Malta. To date, Steward has not received any communication from the Health Ministry to confirm that Gozitan nurses could be released to work at GGH,” Steward Health Care said.

Steward proposed to the ministry that it releases 10 nurses from the Gozo list, being the equivalent number of third-country nurses Steward had to engage, in agreement with ministry and union, to make up the necessary staffing levels. These 10 nurses would be over and above the eight currently earmarked for replacement.  

In the interim, the current third-country nationals already recruited by Steward would remain at Gozo General Hospital until the 18 nurses were released to Gozo General Hospital. They would then be transferred to Karin Grech Hospital.

The health care provider said as part of its proposal, it would consider withdrawing all legal proceedings to the injunction immediately, subject to an agreement being reached with the ministry and MUMN.

Steward said that in the context of the current discussions, the interests of its patients remained their sole focus. The health care provider added that at the heart of the dispute is the adequate staffing to maintain full COVID-19 capabilities mandated by government and safety of patients and staff. Steward said that MUMN’s position, which came as a complete surprise, jeopardized those goals without any workable or constructive solutions being proposed.

“In the best interests of its patients, Steward is reserving its right to take further legal action against MUMN to the directives announced yesterday by the union, as a reaction to the prohibitory injunction obtained in Steward’s favour last Sunday. Such directives, have clearly been issued in an attempt to circumvent the Court order, and are seriously impacting several healthcare services on the island of Gozo, which Steward is both legally and morally obliged to provide."

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