Missing elderly home patient: ward manned by just one nurse, union blames health ministry

Nursing union blames shortage of nurses on health ministry, saying SVDP ward that hosted missing patient Karmenu Fino was manned by just one nurse

MUMN President Paul Pace
MUMN President Paul Pace

The hospital ward at St Vincent de Paule from which a male patient went missing, had only one nurse manning it despite an agreement with management for higher staff complement.

Nurses union MUMN said the ward hosting 35 patients had to be manned by a minimum of two nurses. “Due to a chronic lack of nurses, which MUMN has been protesting with the authorities for years on end, on the day of the incident only one nurse – from the reliever pool, and not a nurse who habitually works in this ward – was assigned to this ward,” MUMN boss Paul Pace said.

An internal invesigation is underway into the disapperance of 83-year-old Karmenu Fino, last seen in Luqa after leaving the SVDP resident on Tuesday. The internal investigation will be led by retired Judge Geoffrey Valenzia.

Pace warned that the SVDP management would expectedly take disciplinary action against the one nurse on duty, mocking it as “a favourite ploy” instead of taking remedial measures to address endemic problems of staffing.

“This shortage of nurses, which has time and time again led to the institution of judicial procedures both of a criminal as well as of a civil nature against nurses personally, for failures which are management failures, has spurred MUMN to initiate industrial action intended to jolt the authorities to take the necessary action to effectively remedy the situation.

“But as usual, the government, rather than rolling up its sleeves and doing the job which it is duty-bound to do, resorted to another favourite ploy to take MUMN to court in order to stop it from pursuing its industrial actions,” Pace said.

The union is rebutting the health ministry’s arguments, accusing the government of treating nurses as scapegoats for its management failures inside hospitals.

Pace said nursing complement in Malta had reached critical levels. “Unless government takes the necessary measures to effectively remedy this chronic problem, one can only expect a repetition of the incidents which MUMN is seeking to avert through industrial action... these actions are solely intended to spur the government into doing what is right, in the interests of nurses and patients alike, rather than conveniently sit on the fence and point its fingers at individual nurses... it should be reciting a mea culpa as it most certainly should do.”

MUMN has formally requested SVPR management to put aside statements allegedly made by nurses under duress, without allowing them to speak to the union’s legal consultants.

“An open and honest line of communication is in place between MUMN and the minister for active ageing in whom MUMN would like to declare its full trust and utmost respect. One has to note that the nursing crisis in Malta is only due to the lack of action of the health ministry, since the ministry of active ageing has no remit on nursing recruitment or on nursing working conditions.”

Any information about Fino can be passed on to the Police force using the numbers 21224001 or 119 or by contacting the closest police station.