Nurses and midwives union sabre-rattling on appointment of former Labour-leaning union’s official as advisor to Health Ministry

The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) has refused to meet with the Health Ministry’s permanent secretary and Director General following the appointment of a former General Workers Union official as its advisor.

Paul Pace, President of the MUMN, addressed during the annual International Day of Nurses and Midwives press conference, emphasising the need for action to assist alleviate the burden of personnel shortages. A sectoral agreement with the government will be discussed, along with a variety of suggestions to improve the working conditions for nurses and midwives.

Paul Pace, President of the MUMN.

The MUMN claimed in a statement that it was “shocked and dismayed” to learn that Jeremy Camilleri, the new advisor, will be present at all industrial relations meetings, including sensitive ones about the nurses’ and midwives’ sectorial agreement and the situation of Mount Carmel (MCH) nurse Joseph Pace.

Joseph Pace is being held responsible after a patient who should have been under constant supervision self-harmed while receiving care at Mount Carmel Hospital.
(Photo: Allied Newspapers Ltd/ Chris Sant Fournier)

In this situation, a patient was required to have continual one-on-one supervision. Due to the severe staffing difficulties that nurses are facing, no one was available to undertake this supervision at MCH, and management was unable to offer it. Due to a lack of surveillance, the patient cut himself and lost a significant amount of blood. Several nurses, including Joseph Pace himself, rushed to the patient’s aid. Pace is being investigated by the police for his job as a hospital manager, and he is expected to be charged in connection with a patient who self-harmed while under his supervision.

The nurse, on the other hand, is still facing criminal charges after a patient who should have been constantly monitored harmed himself when no nurse or caregiver was available. Pace added that in 2019 when colleague nurses were being investigated, he wrote to the Health Minister personally. This, however, resulted in government inaction, according to Pace, who stated that the minister did not interfere.

Harsh union directives are on the table

According to the nurse and the union, the incident occurred as a result of government-created staffing shortages. If the allegations against the MCH nurse and MCH manager Joseph Pace for unprofessional conduct in 2017 are not dropped immediately, Pace stated the MUMN is prepared to announce a strike among nurses. If the charges against the two nurses remain unaltered, MUMN orders will be issued “to all hospital entities,” according to Pace. Pace will be the focus of the union’s guidelines, according to the union.

“Nurses cannot be portrayed as criminals after doing their duties against all odds for something beyond our control,” Pace added. “What happened to Pace could happen to any other nurse, and we don’t have government protection for things we aren’t responsible for,” Pace said, alluding to the nursing shortage. If the accused nurse is taken before the courts, he could face harsh penalties, including being interdicted, he said.

Ex-General Workers’ Union official appointed Health Ministry’s new advisor

The MUMN sees Jeremy Camilleri’s selection as the Health Ministry’s new advisor as “compensation” for “his contribution to the Labour Party’s general election campaign.” Senior government employees within the health department had also become “irrelevant” as a result of the appointment.

Political appointees should not attend ‘sensitive’ union meetings, according to the organisation. The MUMN stated that instead of learning from past failures, the permanent secretary continued to hire persons based on their political connections. It stated that political appointees will not be brought in to address “any union concerns,” including sectoral agreements.

When approached, the Health Ministry stated that it reserves the right to pick its own advisors.

In reaction, Camilleri warned the MUMN, saying that “no one can tell him what to do or not do”… and that if they come to take industrial action against him, he will take them to court.