MUMN sceptical of Boffa Hospital’s conversion: not enough nurses to fill existing, new vacancies

Nurses union says only ‘a miracle’ could fill in the existing vacant positions at general hospitals and provide enough nurses for the conversion of Boffa Hospital into a general hospital

Sir Paul Boffa Hospital set to be refurbished and kept in use as a general hospital
Sir Paul Boffa Hospital set to be refurbished and kept in use as a general hospital

Amid government plans to convert Sir Paul Boffa Hospital into a general hospital by the end of the year, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses is adamant that such a conversion was impossible, unless “a miracle” occurred.

MUMN was reacting to comments given by parliamentary secretary for health Chris Fearne during a radio interview in which he confirmed that Boffa Hospital will become a general hospital by end 2015.

Shocked and surprised by the news, MUMN president Paul Pace said this had been the first time they heard of such a development. Only recently, MUMN held a meeting the human resources management on this year’s recruitment of nurses and their eventual deployment and no mention was made of the Boffa Hospital.

Moreover, the MUMN had “reliable information” that such conversion was not included in the Health Division’s plans for capacity building.

“Even if all nursing students were to pass their final examinations this year – which would be too good to be true – the nurses workforce would only increase by 160 when there are at least 300 vacancies,” Pace said.

In addition, 24 nurses were needed to open all new services in the oncology hospital; 36 nurses were needed in the new wards being built at MDH; 36 nurses to fill in the new ward currently holding oncology patients; 10 nurses for the Gozo General Hospital’s orthopaedic ward and another 10 nurses for the elderly homes.

“So unless Chris Fearne can perform miracles like Christ did to feed the multitude with just two fish and five loaves, he should explain how he’s going to fill in the existing vacancies and convert Boffa Hospital into a General Hospital.”

Pace said Malta had to stop relying on the recruitment of foreign nurses, especially when the majority of foreigners recruited could barely speak English.

“Unfortunately MUMN has been receiving complaints from nurses and patients that communicating with a number of foreign nurses was, to say the least, ‘challenging’.

“It is already a horrible experience for a patient to be cared for in a corridor but it only becomes worse if the nurse can’t understand what the patient is saying.

The way things are going, Maltese people will have to learn English if they want to receive care at Mater Dei.”

MUMN said that studies have shown that only 25% of the Maltese population is fluent in English.

“While other countries (such as the UK) are requesting certain high academic qualifications in the English language to safe guard patient safety, the Health Division resorted to a mere 15-minute interview to evaluate the English skills of foreign nurses. This resulted in many foreign nurses with poor English skills getting themselves employed by the Health Division which could be detrimental to patient safety.”

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