Malta Chamber warns of nurse shortage in elderly homes

Business lobby describes the shortage as a 'crisis in waiting'

A shortage of nurses in elderly homes and across the health sector is a crisis in waiting, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry warned on Thursday. 

The Care Home Operators Executive Committee within the Chamber sounded the alarm bells while urging government to meet the private healthcare sector to find beneficial solutions for the private and public sectors. 

"To date, Malta lost over 600 nurses to the UK," the Chamber said in a statement. It warned that the rise in COVID cases means care homes are being stretched to the limit, with staff suffering burnout two years since the start of the outbreak.

To alleviate the burden, the Malta Chamber asked for more support and full-time staff to be dedicated to the Nursing and Midwifery Council so as to enable it to vet foreign nurses' applications within shorter time frames. 

It also proposed better residency terms and family reunification for foreign nurses and healthcare workers, together with incentives to attract more local nurses to start or return to the profession. 

"It is worth noting that many Private Care Homes do not only cater for private clients, but are also on a Public Private Partnership agreement, relieving the state from cases that would otherwise be taking up beds in state hospitals," the Chamber pointed out. 

"Yet they find themselves in a battle with the state as staff is being poached from the private sector instead of recruited otherwise."

Last year, the Malta Chamber began discussions with government to allow care home operators to extend and renew contracts for third-country national nurses working in the private sector to up to three years, as it is in the public sector. This was eventually taken on board.

"Similarly, The Malta Chamber is confident that the above three recommendations are also taken on board for the benefit of all senior citizens."