NAO: Mount Carmel Hospital still needs CCTV system and better-managed wards

NAO’s original 2018 study concluded that Mount Carmel Hospital was still considered a ‘secondary priority’ compared to the rest of the Maltese public health sector

Mount Carmel Hospital still needs better premises for community clinics, an adequate CCTV system and better-managed wards, despite progress which was made.

This was all laid out in a performance audit report presented on Wednesday by Auditor General Charles Deguara to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Anġlu Farrugia. 

NAO’s original 2018 study concluded that MCH was still considered a secondary priority when compared to the rest of the local public health sector. 

It put forward a number of recommendations intended to address the issues and concerns related to the hospital and by implication, Mental Health Services. The follow-up study was therefore intended to assess Government’s progress in implementing this Office’s related recommendations. 

The review noted that all recommendations put forward in the NAO’s original 2018 report were accepted by MHS and implementation on more than half of them is at work.

NAO noted the “clear intent” by MHS to implement all the former’s recommendations regarding improvements to MCH’s structural design, safety, and ambience, with refurbishments and structural works being already undertaken on more than half of the hospital’s wards. However, the Office remained concerned with the state of the remaining wards which, since the 2018 report, have largely remained in similar, less than desirable, condition. 

“This Office considers that such an environment undoubtedly still impinges on the patients’ and staff’s overall wellbeing,” said the report.

NAO also mentioned the unsuccessful attempt to secure a temporary acute hospital to relocate patients from MCH but recognises efforts undertaken so that MCH itself is rendered safer and better suited for mental health patients. 

This review also showed an improved situation regarding MCH’s security personnel but it highlighted the insignificant progress registered on the recommended improvements with respect to the hospital’s CCTV systems and the management of master keys.

Improvements were also reported on MHS’s resources, with NAO noting an increase in both recurrent and capital financial allocations towards MCH between 2018 and 2022, as well as a reduction in staff shortages. 

“While these improvements are undoubtedly commendable,” said the review, the hospital faces significant external challenges to recruit the total required human resource complement due to the fact that MCH didn’t manage to fully utilise the funds which were allocated to it for capital projects in the past years. 

The launching of a mental health strategy, and MHS’s “evident” accomplishment to drastically reduce the number of in-patients at MCH who do not strictly require hospitalisation in a mental health institution, were also positively noted in this review. 

Lastly, the Office remained concerned about the evident challenges being posed on community services housed in premises which are either inadequate or too small to suitably cater for mental health out-patients.