Vulnerable patients should never be the victims of unions' industrial action, a network of 40 health organisations has said.

The Malta Health Network backed recent comments by the Commissioner for Health within the Office of the Ombudsman, who warned against "inhumane" actions by unions using patients as "pawns" with which to pressure authorities.

In a statement on Saturday, the European Patients' Rights Day, the network said that while such situations may arise, unions and hospital authorities should seek to reach agreements that did not impose additional burdens on patients.

"The patients are helpless and vulnerable and have no choice but to be dependent on help for their basic needs," it said. 

"It is unfair and unjust to try to resolve issues using such persons who cannot fight back and who do not have any alternatives available to them in such situations. They are the people who are still suffering the most from COVID situation and this is a terrible last blow for them. Thus, we appeal for the respect of patients’ rights as described in the European Charter of Patients’ Rights especially the Right to avoid unnecessary suffering and pain." 

The Malta Health Network is holding a webinar on patients' rights on Monday.

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