Reaching 30 years in business is “no joke” and for CareMalta Group CEO James Sciriha 2023 was the culmination of all the challenges and highlights of a three-decades-long journey. CareMalta Group is now looking ahead to setting new milestones with its first foray in Gozo. Speaking just a few months before the doors officially open at Dar San Gużepp in Ghajnsielem, which he described as a “gem of a location”, James stressed the “extreme importance” of this venture for CareMalta Group.

“Presently all our energy is focused on Gozo so that we can open in the predefined timeframes. Reaching out to our sister island has been our priority for the past years. It is a huge win,” he continues. He adds that CareMalta Group is looking forward to be the first private operator in offering care for the elderly across the channel, bringing its trademark expertise to the island.

Gozo still lags behind Malta in terms of services for the elderly, as well as the disability and mental health sectors. “I believe we can bring a complete shift to Gozo from what the Gozitans are used to in terms of nursing care and what ultimately the elderly deserve. We all deserve the best dignified service.” Just like all CareMalta Group’s homes, Dar San Gużepp will create a sense of community, a “second home from home”.

“Our commitment is to deliver the best even in terms of staffing. We want to have Gozitans working with us too.” And once that is up and running, CareMalta Group will shift its attention to the next Gozitan project: the transformation of the former Astra discotheque into a facility that will be managed by HILA, offering a wide range of specialised services.

While this was “a very good year” for CareMalta Group with continued growth, it was not without its challenges. The award of the tender for Dar San Gużepp and Zammit Clapp were two major highlights of the year but both came after “very tough legal battles”. The closure of the Bormla home was “a huge emotional challenge”. CareMalta Group has also spent the past two years upgrading Casa Arkati’s facilities and refurbishing Villa Messina while preparing to shift all manual processes to digital.

The elderly sector has its own inherent challenges, not least because it is becoming “more dynamic” with increased competitors entering the business, introducing new processes and motivating all operators to keep up with the latest trends. Residents are entering homes when they are older, at an average age of 83, often frailer and with more comorbidities which have a direct impact on the facilities.

Human resources are another particular challenge. “This sector relies on employing third country nationals because we do not have enough Maltese to complement the full workforce. Foreigners are a very important resource to the sector and to the nation in general,” says James, adding that Learning Works trains their staff to speak basic Maltese, which helps them to communicate better with elderly residents who may not speak much English.