Malta Nurses To Begin Nationwide Strike

The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses announced on Thursday that nurses and midwives across the country will be following industrial directives as of 5 July at 7am.

This action is being taken after the government failed to reach an agreement with the MUMN over issues related to a retirement scheme for nurses and midwives, along with allowances and salaries.

This comes after industrial action was narrowly averted last October, when the MUMN called a press conference in Birkirkara because the government refused to meet to discuss their proposals.  That industrial action was averted after the government accepted to open negotiations with the union, and reached a preliminary agreement to discuss an Early Retirement Scheme among others.

The counter-proposals presented by the government seven months later, were not adequate, according to the MUMN, based on four premises; the Early Retirement Scheme was removed from the discussion table, the amount of Nursing Premium was still low, some grades in the salary structure were not compensated or compensated enough, and the miscellaneous points were not addressed in the document.

It is due to these four reasons that the MUMN announced on Thursday that industrial action will be taken.

“This situation clearly shows that the government is not sensitive to the situation that nurses are in our country”, said Colin Galea, the secretary general of the MUMN, when addressing the media.

The union continued to point out the “substantial shortages” in the nursing force, a shortage which is calculated to be of 550 nurses across all hospitals.  These amounts are calculated according to figures from 15 years ago and if studies had to be conducted today they would show an even graver crisis in nursing, the Union said.

“The government is conscious of all this as it has in its possession studies which show these facts, however for obvious reasons, it is choosing not to publish and not to comment on these studies,” Galea said.

Galea also stated that the government is also refusing to conduct a joint study with the MUMN so new ratios that reflect the present situation are stabilised.

In his address, Galea cited numerous examples which showed the alarming lack of nurses; at Mount Carmel Hospital there are not enough nurses to keep constant watch on all patients, and as a result there have been cases of patients escaping, in operating theatres at Mater Dei Hospital numerous operations are cancelled every week due to the lack of nurses, whilst in the Intensive Therapy Unit the internationally established ratio of having 1 nurse per patient is very rarely adhered to.

These shortages are present not just in nursing; but also in midwifery, he said.

“Here we are talking about people’s health, on patients who are not stacks of paper that can be put into a drawer and seen the day after, but real people who are suffering in silence because whilst they are seeing nurses and midwives doing everything they can with them, at the same time they are conscious that there is a big lack and that the service can be better,” Galea said.

It is due to this situation that the MUMN have called industrial directives; directives which will remain in force until a final agreement is reached and will only be suspended in the case that a meeting is organised.

The union also advised the government that no legal mandate submitted to court by the government will stop the carrying out of these actions.

“The nurses and midwives are going to continue with their fight in favour of better salary and better conditions of work”, the Union said.

The Union have sent a 7 page list of directives that the nurses and midwives shall be following as of 5 July to the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry for Health, Joseph Rapa, and the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry for Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity, Mark Musu’.

Source: Malta Independent

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