Human resource limitations in the national health service means outpatient services and certain operations will have to stop functioning if COVID-19 ITU wards fill up, Health Minister Chris Fearne has warned.
Fearne confirmed on the TVM show Xtra last night that Malta has six ITU wards at its disposal, five of which are specifically for COVID-19 patients. Two of these wards are currently being used, the first time more than one ward has been utilised since the start of the pandemic last March.
“There are four other wards in our reserve; hopefully we won’t have to use them but they’re there,” Fearne said. “However, it’s not only an issue of ventilators and beds but of staff, and if we’re going to man these ITUs, we’ll have to stop outpatient services and operations. Ideally we won’t go there.”
Fearne urged people to get vaccinated for influenza this winter to prevent a situation whereby the hospital will have to cope with both flu and COVID-19 patients.
“We’re giving over 10,000 flu shots a day and we must keep this rhythm going,” he said.
Malta has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent days, with a record 112 new cases confirmed yesterday. Fearne said new measures to contain the spread will be announced in the coming days and pledged to step up enforcement of the current measures – such as the ten-person rule for public gatherings and the rule that bars should only serve alcohol if they also serve food.