The Malta Independent 27 May 2017, Saturday

How rich of Muscat

Claudette Buttigieg Friday, 21 April 2017, 13:36 Last update: about 2 months ago

Last Tuesday, in an attempt to distract from the main issue of the past few days – the identity of the real owner of Egrant Inc. – Joseph Muscat sent two surgeons to a press conference on health. The surgeons – health minister Chris Fearne and Labour MP Franco Mercieca – tried to convince the general public that voting for the PN is a risk for free medical care in Malta. Of course, coming from Muscat this isn’t just rich, it is super rich.

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So, Muscat still thinks that he can choose two of his men to throw mud at the Opposition and people will automatically accept this as the gospel truth. Does he really believe the public is that gullible?

This Labour tactic is now overused. Time has proven, over and over again, that such accusations are totally false. The real irony of it all is that the only time any form of payment was introduced in the health sector in Malta was under a Labour government, under Alfred Sant in the mid-1990s, with the introduction of the famous 50 (Malta) cents (€1.16) for each prescription. This decision turned out to be one of the nails in Sant’s political coffin.

Now, Muscat is doing much worse than Sant.

Behind everyone’s back, and without any mandate to do so, Muscat has sold big chunks of our health system: the Gozo General Hospital, Karin Grech Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital, the dermatology department and the prosthetics department.

Suspicions about this shady deal are rife because the deal itself is far from the exemplary textbook case of good governance and transparency.

 

Here are a few reasons why.

1. The contract was signed by Konrad Mizzi on behalf of Muscat’s government (even though Chris Fearne is the health minister) just two days before the go-ahead was given to open the infamous Panama accounts, as reported by the Pulitzer Prize journalists at ICIJ.

2. The other signatory on the same contract, representing Vitals Global Healthcare, is a very shady character who is involved in a fraudulent business deal in Canada.

3. Only a very edited version of the contract has been published by Chris Fearne for Muscat’s government, making it close to impossible to understand what the real deal is.

4. Two of the country's leading unions, representing workers in the health sector, are not just objecting to this contract. They have formally requested the Auditor General to investigate this matter.

5. Currently, the doctors’ union, MAM, has given their ex-colleague, Chris Fearne, a two-week ultimatum to clear this mess. The Health Minister has been playing for time and acting cool but he is obviously in dire straits and has very little options on what to do next.

 

6. In the meantime, VGH are receiving millions of euros from taxpayers’ money with nothing to show for it. The service has clearly seen no improvement to justify the money going to VGH.

So, I wonder, did Fearne and Franco Mercieca really think that people don’t know all this is going on? Perhaps they might want to explain why they are trying to justify a mess which, until now, did not involve them. How could they allow Muscat to use them in such a disrespectful way?

As I put pen to paper, secret companies are being quickly dismantled, possibly to hide what they were concealing. Nobody is interested in any news except the answer to the clear and simple question: “Who does Egrant belong to?”

And just for the record: The Nationalist Party never introduced payment for public health services and has absolutely no plan to do so.

 

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