Unions using patients as 'pawns' to pressure authorities, health commissioner warns

The Commissioner for Health at the Office of the Ombudsman says unions must not use patients to pressure authorities, but also insists ministries must act swiftly when faced with complaints

The Commissioner for Health at the Office of the Ombudsman has expressed his concern with unions using patients “as pawns to pressure the authorities to accede to their requests.”

“This is inhumane,” the commissioner Charles Messina said.

The reaction came after a union issued directives to its members at St Vincent de Paul not to bathe and not to help residents to mobilise.

Another Union has also issued directives that limit the number of cancer patients that can be admitted to Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Clinic. As a result, patients are admitted to the general wards at Mater Dei Hospital, where the required expertise might be lacking.

“In St Vincent de Paul's case, it is incomprehensible that the elderly residents, many of whom are incontinent, are not being washed for days. This result in developing pressure sores for not being mobilised and cause significant inconvenience and loss of dignity,” the commissioner said.

In this regard, in similar cases, the courts had acceded to a Warrant of Prohibitory Injunction because the directives might put a patient's life at risk.

He also hit-out at the health ministry for failing to take action on the union’s demands.

“Despite these Industrial Actions, the Ministries concerned do not seem too much bothered because months have passed since the discussions were initiate,” the commissioner said.

He concluded by appealing to unions to suspend their directives, which are not affecting the administration but only patients.

Messina also urged ministries to take immediate steps and tackle the issues presented by unions.