‘They can send us all to prison’: Nurses in show of force over Mt Carmel self-harm incident

Nurses say health minister has to answer for staff shortages at Mount Carmel hospital that made it impossible to monitor patient who self-harmed. “They can send us all to prison but we don’t mind. We will go to prison with this guy.” 

Joseph Pace (second from left) with MUMN President Paul Pace (middle)
Joseph Pace (second from left) with MUMN President Paul Pace (middle)

The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) came out in force in to show solidarity with manager nurse who could face a prison sentence over a 2017 incident where a patient harmed himself. 

At a very well-attended press conference on Wednesday outside Mount Carmel Hospital, MUMN President Paul Pace called Joseph Pace a “hero, loved by all the staff, patients and their relatives.”

In an incident which happened in 2017, a patient in Mount Carmel Hospital was ordered by doctors to have Level 1 supervision. But staff shortages prevented the management from providing such supervision for the patient, and was unable to intervene and assist a patient from self-harming.

Paul Pace said that Pace was interrogated by police and that although the union asked Health Minister Chris Fearne to intervene, the case was not dropped.

“We are being constantly threatened with court. This is the third nurse to be sent to court over constant watches, something which requires one-to-one nursing 24 hours a day. However, nurses are ‘out of stock’ here and instead we end up taking them to court. What blame do nurses have?” Paul Pace said. 

Joseph Pace himself, visibly emotional after receiving the support of his co-workers, explained that due to the staff shortage, he was forced to prioritise personnel elsewhere and that this situation had led to a patient not being supervised. 

He explained that this happened regularly and that the staff did everything possible to save the life of the patient. “After two years I was asked to make a statement and the police inspector informed me that I was possibly facing thousands in fines and up to nine years in prison,” Joseph Pace said. 

MUMN called for the accusations against Joseph Pace to be dropped and appealed to government to revise the case and drop the accusations. 

Paul Pace said the situation was also similar at Mater Dei and said that the Health Ministry was not properly addressing the issue. “This is a ticking time bomb ready to explode.”

He said Fearne and the former health ministry permanent secretary Joseph Rapa were responsible for the situation and said they should be the ones the police should have called for. “This nurse delegated people and even went down to the ward himself, ending up saving the patient’s life. The police should have realised that this person went out of his way to help the patient,” Paul Pace said.

“They can send us all to prison but we don’t mind. We will go to prison with this guy,” Paul Pace said. 

He called the situation at Mount Carmel Hospital a “farce”, saying that a new mental hospital had been promised for years. Pace said Mount Carmel was not an adequate and said that wards were being constantly closed down, without new ones opening up.