PN candidate Julie Zahra has called on Mount Carmel CEO Stephanie Xuereb to invite journalist into the mental health hospital in order for them to witness first-hand the conditions within. Writing in an open letter on Sunday, Zahra suggested that press members should be given the opportunity to visit Mount Carmel, either freely or accompanied by a member of staff.
Speaking in a short video on Facebook, Zahra said that she asked Xuereb to invite journalists, camera people, photographers and other members of the press to openly enter Mount Carmel. She said that this should still be done with respect of the patients’ privacy, but that the press should still be able to enter.
Mount Carmel has long been criticised for its ‘far from desirable’ conditions, with Malta’s Commissioner for Mental Health urging hospital authorities to upgrade their protocols, facilities and services last year. He had stated that a number of reforms in the mental health sector were delayed for too long, and appealed to health authorities to realign the work agreed upon in the Mental Health Strategy and proceed with implementation.
The state of the hospital was revealed in a 2018 auditor’s report in which the Auditor General remarked that mental health and the island’s only mental health hospital ‘are still considered as secondary priority when compared to the rest of the local public health sector.’ The Nationalist Party had pledged to close Mount Carmel during a press conference last June. They had promised to create a specialised hospital integrated with Mater Dei Hospital, with Mount Carmel transformed into a public open space.
Later, 2022’s budget promised to modernise Mount Carmel Hospital by renovating the first block and building a therapeutic garden instead of the shuttered block 10. This will accompany a new psychiatric hospital that will be built next to Mater Dei, with Finance Minister Clyde Caruana saying that the new building will be ready in about four years.