Updated | Midwives' industrial action suspended, Health Minister says

The directives, which included fathers being made to leave their partUner’s side after 10pm, were issued two weeks ago over a rostering dispute with hospital management

Directives issued by the midwives’ union, which included preventing fathers from being able to accompany their partners in their room after 10pm, have been suspended, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Wednesday.

The directives were issued by the Malta Union for Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) just under two weeks ago over a rostering dispute with the hospital administration.

MUMN President Paul Pace told MaltaToday last week that management had a created a discriminatory situation, where different sets of midwives were experiencing significantly different working conditions.

The minister said that the directives had been suspended following talks with the union.

“Following discussions this morning, good will prevails and MUMN suspending industrial actions at maternity department at Mater Dei,” Fearne tweeted.

The directives 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.

Asked about the situation yesterday, Fearne said that whether or not to issue directives was the union’s prerogative, but he stressed that the union needed to keep patient interest at heart.  

In comments to MaltaToday following the suspension of the directives, Pace confirmed that the issues regarding midwives rosters had been resolved following an intervention by the minister.

He expressed his disappointment at the fact that a solution was only found after directives had been issued, and despite some two months of talks with hospital management.

Pace said that midwives would now have both rosters available to them, adding that through the latest round of talks it had also been agreed that midwives currently working on a reduced hours contract were now also being given the option of shifting to a 40-hour a week roster.

“This is not a win for the union but a win for patients,” Pace said, adding that allowing reduced hours midwives to shift to a 40-hour roster means there would be more midwives to provide the care that patients needed.

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