The Commissioner for Health within the Office of the Ombudsman has slammed the unions' "persistence" in using patients as "pawns" to pressure the authorities as "inhumane".

In a statement on Friday, Health Commissioner Charles Messina called on unions to suspend directives that are impacting patients and urged the authorities "to take immediate steps" and "solve the problems".

According to the commissioner, elderly St Vincent de Paul Hospital patients were being left unwashed for days as a result of union directives.

The same union has ordered its members not to help patients move around, and the resulting pressure sores cause "significant inconvenience and loss of dignity", he added.

"Another union has 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," the commissioner said.

Despite such industrial action, ministries "do not seem too much bothered because months have passed since discussions were initiated", Messina added.

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