T.O.M reports about a number of operations at Mater Dei Hospital were postponed on Tuesday morning because of industrial action by nurses over meals.

A spokesman for Mater Dei said that up to eight operations had been postponed by 8am, as nurses were instructed not to accompany patients to operating theatres.

The nurses are following a directive by the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) which is arguing that the quality of food they are provided while on duty should be improved.

Image: T.O.M

“This is disproportionate action which certainly doesn’t put the interests of patients first,” Mater Dei CEO Ivan Falzon told Times of Malta. 

While clarifying that emergency interventions and operations for serious conditions are not covered by the strike action, Mr Falzon said the action would impact many who have been waiting months for a date in the operating theatre.

He said all doctors and nurses are entitled to free meals from the canteen but the numbers of those making use of it in recent years had shot up to around 1,300 people. The nurses’ union is now demanding an allowance instead.

“Of course unions have every right to take action, but let’s first make sure the discussions are exhausted,” Mr Falzon said. 

“MUMN would like to make it clear that Malta is not a dictatorship country where a person is obliged to eat only what the Health Promotion department deems fit,” it said at the time.

Moreover, the starter given to staff, which was never a large portion, was also removed, it said, adding the Health Promotion Department should not “impose” a special diet on union members.

MUMN president Paul Pace told Times of Malta on Tuesday that a meeting with the Health Department on Monday had ended in disagreement.

Concerns over legal liability of nurses 

The discussion had included the meal allowance and the legal liability of nurses employed on constant watch with patients.

The constant watch issue cropped up after a court found a nurse liable for damages after a patient choked on a piece of chicken and died. The union is insisting that enough nurses should be deployed for constant watch duties and they should not have to carry out constant watch along with other duties.

On the meals issue, Mr Pace said the food being offered to nurses was “crap” and the union was therefore calling for a small meals allowance, enough to buy a tuna roll and a bottle of water for a 12-hour shift. 

He said various directives had been ordered. Surgeries were affected because nurses were told not to leave their wards. 

Source: Times of Malta