A foreign recruitment agency on the hunt in India for nurses to work in Malta, for the hefty fee close to €6,000, has had everything put on hold after the country was placed in lockdown due to coronavirus.
In an advert, Queenley Immigration PVT Ltd said it was looking for nurses and health care workers to immediately start working in Malta, promising a 20-day processing period.
The advert itself raises many questions about the company’s reliability – from typos such as “nurser’s” instead of nurses, to the stock photo of a European looking man wearing a white coat and a stethoscope.
The advert also stated there was no need for IELTS, an international standard test for non-native English speakers to ensure they could communicate with patients. The standards differ from other recruitment agencies, which will only accept nurses with experience, a basic level of English or a minimum score of 5.5 in IELTS.
This contrasts with another advert the company placed for female nurses to work in Germany and Denmark, requiring at least two years of experience
Queenley Immigration Consultants has a minimal amount of information on its website and Facebook page. There is no company information and it does not specify how the transfer of workers from India to other countries, including Malta, would take place.
The mission statement of the company based in Kerala (South India) simply reads: “Meet different people, cultures, traditions and landscapes. Choose your next destination with us, we will take care of the rest”. There are no details on guarantees for workers, and questions by The Shift remained unanswered.
The company does not only limit itself to Malta but offers job placements in various European countries as well as Canada, US, New Zealand and Singapore. The majority of these adverts, however, do not specify the type of employment or the salary.
According to the advert, those who wish to apply to come and work in Malta have to pay 475,000 Indian Rupees, the equivalent of €5,700. The price includes a charter flight to Malta. The average wage of a ‘regular’ health worker in Kerala amounts to a little more than €400 per month.
Foreign nurses working in Malta must comply with the regulations of the Council for Nursing and Midwives, which calls for 2,300 hours of theory and another 2,300 hours of practice together with a basic certified knowledge of English or Maltese.
In a recent parliamentary question, Health Minister Chris Fearne said the majority of foreign staff were working at Mater Dei Hospital as staff nurses and resident specialists. Out of the 5,311 employees at Mater Dei and Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre, 347 were foreigners. Fearne did not specify the country of origin.
Medical sources told The Shift that the government was planning to bring to Malta 300 nurses from India to supplement the health workforce in Malta. The plan came to a halt as the Indian government extended a nationwide lockdown following reports of around 10,000 positive cases of coronavirus.
And as the promise of more nurses seems to have been thrown out of the equation, health care workers who spoke to The Shift expressed their concern over the shortage of staff at Mater Dei hospital as Malta braces itself to see more cases of the virus.
Even though the daily updates on the COVID-19 situation in Malta portrays a situation under control, health officials are concerned they are not adequately prepared if the pandemic reached a peak where the number of infected people increases drastically.
“The government is doing its best, or at least this is what appears to be happening. But I’m afraid we haven’t even started to face the real crisis. The numbers we are seeing every day are small and although this is very good, every country has to reach a peak eventually. And we are not ready for that yet,” medical workers told The Shift.