Patients must not suffer during industrial disputes, says Health Commissioner

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Commissioner for Health in the Office of the Ombudsman has noted with satisfaction the agreement reached by UĦM – Voice of the Workers and the Ministry for Health, regarding equal conditions of work of Steward Health Care employees and those employed by the Government.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Commissioner for Health noted how the dispute, took over 15 months to solve, including over two months of Industrial Action.

The action affected not only those hospitals run by Steward Healthcare, but also Mater Dei Hospital from where patients needing rehabilitative treatment could not be transferred to Karin Grech Rehabilitation Hospital. Also, patients could not be transferred from one ward to another. This meant that at Karin Grech Hospital patients in the Admission/Quarantine ward could not be transferred to their proper ward.

The Commissioner for Health appealed to all Unions not to use the patient as a pawn in order to exert pressure on the Ministry.  On the other hand, the Ministry should take immediate action when a Union pinpoints a particular problem as it is not fair and just for patients to be made to suffer, said the Commissioner.

Workers employed at three state hospitals by Steward Health Care and by their predecessors Vitals Global Healthcare will now enjoy the same rights, benefits and working conditions as public sector employees doing the same job after an agreement was reached by the UĦM Voice of the Workers.

On Thursday, UĦM chief executive Josef Vella described the deal as a victory not just for the union and its members, but also for all those who believed in the principle of equal pay for equal work.