Malta aims to beef up medical workforce, lack of recruits a problem

Malta’s Health Ministry has launched a strategy aiming to beef up the country’s workforce in the health sector which is struggling to cope with departures and a lack of new recruits.

The strategy, stretching to 2030, seeks ways of attracting, developing and retaining an inclusive, diverse and resilient workforce through supportive human resource management.

The ministry acknowledges that globalization, coupled with a severe shortage of professionals in certain categories, has brought about an increased dependency on foreign workers in the health sector.

It suggests a number of measures that could help attract and retain health sector employees. These include a program to help foreign workers adapt to Malta’s culture; the digitalization of the healthcare system; investment in artificial intelligence; the promotion of telemedicine; and improved and more flexible working conditions.

Language is one of the main barriers as 11 percent of the country’s healthcare workers are foreigners, mainly from India and Pakistan. The strategy also proposes more remote working, building on the experience gained during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This could work well for non-patient tasks, such as writing and reviewing clinical notes, accessing laboratory and radiology results, writing referrals and prescriptions, and other administrative work.

“A robust healthcare workforce is the cornerstone to building a health service fit for purpose today and in the future. It aims to shape the future healthcare workforce in Malta,” the strategy says.

COVID PANDEMIC IN MALTA

Earlier this month it was revealed that Malta had spent more than 1.6 billion euros on support measures since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2020.

Of the 1.66 billion euros spent on tackling coronavirus, 1.5 billion euros came from the national treasury. Some 150 million euros was provided through the European Social Fund and the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (REACT-EU).

Just over 662 million euros were spent on measures in 2020, the Finance Minister explained. This increased to just over 706 million euros in 2021, but support dropped to just under 300 million in 2022.

Most of the funds were spent on supplementing wages, with workers being offered around 800 euros a month to help employers sustain their jobs. This measure alone cost around 842 million euros.

Several sectors also received direct support, such as the agriculture and fisheries sectors, and the voucher scheme which helped retail outlets.

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