Care workers at Mt Carmel forced to take on nursing role despite lack of qualifications

The General Workers Union said care workers hired to feed and wash patients were being forced to watch over those who needed constant supervision

GWU section secretary Jeremy Camilleri has accused Mount Carmel of using care workers for jobs they are not qualified to perform
GWU section secretary Jeremy Camilleri has accused Mount Carmel of using care workers for jobs they are not qualified to perform

Care workers employed by third-party contractors and working at Mount Carmel Hospital are being forced to perform nursing duties despite them not being qualified to do so, the General Workers Union said.

GWU Public Service Secretary Jeremy Camilleri said that care workers were being forced to carry out these tasks, and were being threatened if they refused to. He was addressing a press conference at the union's headquarters in Valletta on Thursday afternoon.

Camilleri said the situation at the hospital was so worrying that it was of national interest to make known the difficulties being faced by his union's members.

“When, as a union, we encounter things which are scandalous we can’t remain silent,” Camilleri said, adding this took on greater significance at a time when efforts were being made to increase awareness and reduce stigma towards mental health sufferers.

He said the government had been making use of care workers employed by third-party contractors for a number of years now, adding that it was clearly stated in their job description that they could not do the same job as a nurse.

Despite this condition, care workers were being asked to perform tasks which went beyond their job description and which should be carried out by a qualified nurse.

Such tasks included accompanying patients out of the building or carrying out ‘Level 1 constant watch’ work, which he said involved the supervision of patients deemed to require 24-hour supervision.

He said the hospital management was forcing these workers do perform these tasks because of a shortage of nurses, highlighting the fact that care workers were not trained to help patients through psychotic episodes and were only trained to feed or wash them. 

“Who will take responsibility if something happens,” he said, adding that health and safety legislation clearly stated that workers should not perform tasks that could harm them or others.

He said that after informing the managements about the fact that these workers were being threatened if they refused to do as they were told, the union was told that an investigation would take place.

“The investigation consisted of the management contacting the person it was alleged had made the threats and asking him whether he had done so,” Camilleri continued.

The GWU official said that when he informed the hospital’s CEO Stephen Sultana about the matter, his reply was: “I don't rent people, I rent hours.”

“Imagine a CEO thinking in this way, this is central to the problem," Camilleri said, noting that the situation had been going on since May.

He said the management had even refused to reassure the union that it would take responsibility in the event of an incident.

The union, he said, had suggested that at the very least workers should be given an intensive training course but said that despite management agreeing with the suggestion, no action had been taken.

When the suggestion was made there was disagreement about who would pay for the training. Camilleri said he suspected that this had still not been resolved.

Asked how many people were currently being forced to do work they were not qualified to do, and whether any incidents had been reported, Camilleri said that there had been no incidents.

As for the number of impacted workers, he said it was “not an isolated case that only affected two or three people”.

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