Medicine dispensing robot ‘worthless’, ‘total failure’, nurses’ union claims

A robotic system to dispense medicines at Mater Dei Hospital, introduced in 2019, is a ‘total failure’, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses claims

MUMN says that robot Mario's work is rife with errors and the system is a waste of money
MUMN says that robot Mario's work is rife with errors and the system is a waste of money

The nurses’ union has denounced a medicine dispensing robot at Mater Dei Hospital, claiming the multi-million-euro investment has been a “total failure”.

Nicknamed Mario, the robot was introduced in 2019 with the aim of eliminating “all human error” in the distribution and dosage of medicines used in hospital.

However, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses has claimed that in two years of operation the system failed frequently and also dispensed wrong medications and dosages. 

The union has directed nurses not to continue receiving training on the machine and instructed members who work in wards where the robot is being used to revert back to the old manual system of medicine distribution.

The union said the robotic errors have made life for nurses more difficult because they have had to double-check the work done by the machines.

“MUMN is declaring that such equipment is a complete failure and a complete waste of money,” the union said in a strongly-worded statement on Monday.

The system was used in a pilot project in one of the hospital wards but the MUMN said the robot would very often cease operations, leaving nurses with no medicines to distribute to patients. In these cases, the union claims, nurses had to borrow drugs from adjacent wards.

The union said that it repeatedly drew the attention of management to these problems to no avail. 

“For two whole years, nurses and MUMN have been swindled by a multi-million-euro project which never took off and never provided a reliable service to patients but just added more stress and extra workload on nurses striving to give a simple tablet to their patients,” the union said, adding that drug administration at hospital has become a “nightmare”.

The union claimed that the project manager responsible for the system has since resigned and four different technician teams servicing the robot also left the job.

MUMN said similar machines were only present in one British hospital and five small hospitals in Italy, which have a handful of wards each. The MUMN said the limited use of these machines overseas is indicative of their failure.

“The Health Division is in total denial and would not admit that €25 million of tax payer money has been spent on a worthless machine that is a complete failure,” the union said.

The MUMN called for the robotic system to be removed and use the money to expand the government free medicines formulary.