The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses has ordered widespread industrial action following a breakdown of negotiations on a new sectoral agreement.
The Health Ministry has drawn up a management plan to ease inconvenience to patients and ensure their safety, as nurses embark on industrial action on Thursday morning.
This will be coupled with directives issued by the General Workers’ Union for nursing aides and other health workers. They have been ordered not to carry out any of the tasks usually done under the supervision of a nurse. The GWU said its members would do the tasks as long as the authorities provided another professional to supervise, who would shoulder responsibility.
Among other tasks, MUMN nurses at Mater Dei Hospital have been instructed not to participate in ward rounds and the transfer of patients going for elective operations to any theatres, endoscopy rooms or suites, except those awaiting a caesarean section.
Nurses at Mater Dei Hospital have been instructed not to participate in ward rounds
They will not be present at the main operating theatre or assist on elective lists before 10.30am, while at the endoscopy unit they will not assist with any procedure before 10.30am.
At the intensive therapy unit, nurses will not ambulate any patients or dress the deceased.
Asked whether there were any planned mitigating measures, a spokeswoman said the Health Ministry respected the right of employees to follow industrial action ordered by their unions.
“Over the last week, the ministry engaged with various entities that might be impacted by the MUMN’s latest directives in order to finalise a detailed management plan that would see us minimise service disruptions, reduce patient inconvenience and, above all, ensure the highest level of patient safety under these circumstances,” she added.
The ministry said it remained open to discussions with the MUMN to find the best way forward with regard to the new collective agreement in the interest of all parties “but especially in the best interest of our patients”. When contacted, MUMN general secretary Colin Galea said the union and the government had met on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday but an agreement was still far off. Though some progress had been made, it was not enough to postpone the directives, he noted.
He dismissed claims that only some nurses would be taking part in the industrial action, saying the union had the backing of all its members.
The directives apply to nurses and midwives on normal duty, as well as those working overtime.
They will affect staff at Mater Dei Hospital, the intensive care unit, St Vincent de Paul Residence, Mount Carmel Hospital, the Karin Grech Rehabilitation Hospital, the Gozo General Hospital, Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre, health centres, the national immunisation services, the Well Baby Clinic, the Commcare Unit, elderly homes and Sir Paul Boffa Hospital.
Source: Times of Malta