Nurses have been ordered by their union not to answer the phone or conduct any computer-related work as part of an industrial action over the quality of the food of the Mater Dei staff canteen.
A circular issued by the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) to its members includes these two actions among instructions to nurses not to leave their wards for any reason, such as accompanying patients to operating theatres.
It said the strike excludes the care of patients with life-threatening conditions, but MUMN President Paul Pace later warned the union would escalate the strike to the emergency unit if its demands were not met.
“It is imperative that no booking of non-urgent transport is performed,” the circular reads. “Doctors requiring transport services will need to contact Red Cross [at night] or email the transport services [during the day].”
“As per our experiences today, no nurses will be answering telephone calls, thus once the ward is assigned to a patient waiting at ED [Emergency Department], the patients will be transferred to the ward at 30 minute intervals.”
“No MUMN member is to accompany any patient [unless ES1 or with a confirmed life-threatening condition] to any unit outside the ED. This will require that the doctor caring for patients accompany patients to CT/MRI/X-Rays.”
The menu of Mater Dei’s staff canteen was revamped earlier this year as part of a healthy eating drive, which included the banning of several sugary items from vending machines and shops on the premises. However, several hospital staff have decried the quality of the food on offer and have questioned the logic behind the menu change, questioning why the salad bar has been removed.
Some have even resorted to ordering take-out… even though a portion of their salaries is deducted to cover the food at the canteen.
The MUMN is now requesting that nurses be offered the choice of a daily €5 food allowance instead. While this won’t be enough to cover many lunches, the union is hopeful the canteen will be pressured to improve the quality of its food if nurses were to start boycotting it.