Nurses’ union reiterates demand for acute general hospital

Nurses’ union boss Paul Pace insists that union has ‘good working relationship’ with health minister Godfrey Farrugia

MUMN secretary-general Paul Pace (left) with health minister Godfrey Farrugia
MUMN secretary-general Paul Pace (left) with health minister Godfrey Farrugia

The secretary-general of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) Paul Pace has claimed the union had "a good working relationship" with health minister Godfrey Farrugia.

His comment came in spite of the fact that Pace has been a vocal critic Farrugia on many occasions during the past year, most recently in the aftermath of the budget in November when he described meeting the minister as "useless".

One such meeting was held this afternoon at the MUMN premises in Mosta, in which both Pace and Farrugia agreed on the importance of two-way communication between government and the union as the way forward.

"The health sector is one which always seems to be at the centre of political controversy but this is because the challenges and issue are constantly ongoing," he said.

Pace said that the union was not linked to one political party or another, but rather "criticized the bad and praised the good".

Amongst the positives, Pace cited the introduction of chemotherapy services in Gozo, believing that patients in Gozo deserved the same medical opportunities as Maltese ones.

Pace did stress though, that the shortage of bed space at Mater Dei was one which needed to be addressed, even if this meant the building of a new acute general hospital.

"Creating more bed space might solve the immediate problems at Mater Dei but it will not really help any long-term scenario," he said.

Pace said that the MUMN had even expressed their concerns about the size of Mater Dei before its doors were even opened.

"We were never really concerned about the migration process from St Luke's (the country's previous national hospital) to Mater Dei.  What did concern us, however, were the logistics of the new hospital," he said.

Pace said that should the Individual Investor Programme be set in motion - a citizenship-for-investment scheme which the Prime Minister has declared will create a total of €1 billion, to be set aside in a national community fund - funds received from the scheme could be used to fund a new hospital.

On his part, Farrugia stressed that government was giving priority to the health sector, in the hope of finding a "holistic plan" to tackle the various shortcomings in the sector.

Farrugia, whilst describing nurses as "leaders" in the field, said that in February World Health Organisation representatives will be carrying out a national report which will serve as a "snapshot" of the situation in Malta's health sector, whilst it would also help government assess any future actions.

"The report will show us how many acute beds are actually needed, but I can probably say from now that the number will not be a low one," he said.

Another topic discussed was the introduction of indemnity insurance, an EU directive legal notice introduced at the end of last year whereby all medical professions are safeguarded in the case of any negligent claims made against them.

It is the government, at present, that is responsible for covering any damages incurred by claims of negligence against health professionals.

However, a clause also states that the government 'reserves the right to recuperate any damages it may be faced with from the nurses and midwives concerned, including expenses related to civil cases' - a clause that the MUMN is urging government to withdraw.

Pace explained that Malta's shortage of staff in the health sector - whereby health employees were working much more than they should be - meant that these professionals were "vulnerable" and "wide open to any liability" when facing such claims.

Farrugia said that removing the clause was not a straightforward process as cases of negligence varied. He did say, though, that indemnity insurance for all was being looked into.

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"criticized the bad and praised the good" Ha! Ha! Ha! As long as there is money/excellent conditions to make/grab, bring it on! Why were the MUMN not so interested in the importation of ingrained, highly unionised and orchestrated St Luke's antique working practices? Oh I see! Why give up such a suckling, slurping money machine! This does not mean that there are not dedicated people working in this profession. It simply means that such unionisation allows for the bad to mingle and get the benefits of the good.
The majority of the surface area of Mate Dei is taken up by other activities than bed-ridden patients and these could easily be relocated. For example teaching, and for example dental. Granted it is convenient to have everything under one roof, but since there is not enough space, I think priority should be given to patients admitted to hospital.
While the mention of the IIP (Citizenship Scheme) in any event is being prominence on all the media, this time it seems that your reporter overlooked the fact that Mr Pace suggested that his new hospital could be financed from funds derived from this scheme.