Mums are cross as midwives send men home in union action

Nurses union boss defends directives issued by midwives over rostering dispute

A dispute over the manner in which midwives’ rosters are prepared has led to the midwives’ union MUMN issuing a set of directives that have limited fathers’ visiting hours at hospital.

Paul Pace, the president of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses, told MaltaToday that the hospital’s management had had created a “discriminatory” situation where different sets of midwives were experiencing significantly different working conditions. 

The directives have stopped midwives from the washing of patients – which should be carried out by other staff and not nurses or midwives – ward rounds, errands outside the place of work and not to participate in transferring of patients between wards, except labouring mothers and obstetric emergencies.

Midwives are also being asked not to perform any clerical work, not to use computers or any similar devices, as well as to limit visiting hours for relatives. 

But the directive that appears to have caused the greatest public outcry was one prohibiting husbands from accompanying mothers in their room after 10pm.

One mother took to social media to vent her anger at having her husband told to leave her side after giving birth.

“I gave birth on the 15th June at 00:35am. I was tired and unable to walk on my own. My husband was asked to leave. This impacted me very badly... being in that state and having to look after a newborn on my own,” she said.

The woman said that while she understood the need for the directives, the prohibition of fathers in maternity wards was having psychological effects on new mothers.

“I hope you all realise the psychological effect this is leaving on the mothers,” she said.

Asked about the directive targeting fathers, Pace said that the instructions are designed to send a message without impacting the care of the mother.

“To send a message we try not to affect the care of the mother and try to impact other things like visiting times in a way that we do not take any attention away from the mother. We would like for these husbands to go and complain with the Mater Dei administration about the visiting hours,” he said.

“The management has split the midwifery profession down the middle by giving different sets of midwives different working conditions,” he continued.

Pace said that midwives were being given two types of rosters and that while both were 40-hour rosters, one included long breaks that “aren’t needed” while the other included shorter break periods. Time spent on break was not paid, Pace said, arguing that it was unfair for some to be able to leave work earlier than the rest of their colleagues. 

“It is not right for people who work together to have very different conditions, especially when this is resulting in some people being able to go home much earlier than others for the same salary,” Pace said.

The directives, Pace said, were being followed by all midwives, both those who had managed to retain the more favourable roster as well as those who didn’t.

Asked whether there had been any developments since the directives were issued last Friday, Pace said there had been some meetings with the hospital management, but said that the solution had not yet been resolved.

He said the Health Department was dragging its feet by insisting that it first need to determine the financial implications and feasibility of changing the system.

“You can’t make it difficult for people, because people are being driven away from the profession. We’re losing two to three nurses a week because we’re not trying to accommodate their needs,” Pace said.  

Asked about what the way forward was and whether the directives would remain in place he said the issue was a redline for the union.

“All midwives need to be treated the same and we cannot allow discrimination to take place. We will never back down from a directive unless a solution has been found. We can’t afford to lose midwives because of a simple roster,” he said.

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