The Malta Independent 20 June 2018, Wednesday

Watch: MAM asks government to put hospitals concession on hold, calls for investigation

Helena Grech Wednesday, 10 January 2018, 11:43 Last update: about 6 months ago

The Medical Association of Malta has called on the Auditor General to prioritize investigations into the concession awarded to Vitals Global Healthcare by the government to operate and maintain three public hospitals.

General Secretary of the MAM Martin Balzan described the deal as ‘fishy’ (fazulla) for the reason that in a Public-Private-Partnership it is the private entity that shells put the capital investment and not government. 

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MAM also asks that Health Minister Chris Fearne stops all negotiations on the sale of the concession by VGH to third parties pending the AG’s conclusions.

LovinMalta and shortly after The Malta Independent had independently received reports that VGH sold their concession to a US firm named Steward Healthcare. A representative for VGH said that they two sides are still in discussions while former health minister Konrad Mizzi had insisted that the sale went through with the government’s approval.

The MAM is also requesting that the finance ministry does not approve anymore payments to VGH pending the AGs conclusions in order to ensure that government and the maltese public have been given a fair deal.

Balzan expressed grave concern at the fact that €34 million in payments to VGH was approved by parliament in 2017 when there is no proof of works carried out worth the exorbitant sum.

He spoke of how no investment has been made except for some superficial works on the facade of St Luke’s hospital and excavation at the Gozo general hospital.

“We are not seeing a capital investment work €34 million,” Balzan said.

He continued to say that the whole scope behind a Public Private Partnership is so that the private entity shells out the capital investment from its own pocket and once it is complete, for example the promised refurbishment of St Luke’s Hospital, then the government begins to pay it rent.

Balzan lamented that in this case, government was paying VGH before it has completed extensive works on the three hospitals it was given control of and is also paying the mysterious company rent.

He drew comparisons from when it was found that the government did not broker a good deal during the Old Mint Steet scandal involving the now infamous Marco Gaffarena. Government had went to court to have the deal made void, and that is a perfect model for how it should act in the case of VGH, Balzan stressed.

“MAM continues to sinstit that as stated in its original letter to the PAX, that there are serious flaws in the original concession, and appeals to Parliament and the Government to use every possible means to recover all funds and property which may have been committed to this project as happened in the Old Mint Street property sale.

“MAM re-iterates that it remains opposed to PPPs where Government loses control of the daily running of the health provision, and the main target becomes profit for international companies on the stock market. Experience from countries abroad where PPPs were introduced have proven that they are not in the long-term interest of patients.”

In addition to this, MAM takes issue with the doctors employed by Vitals as they are not in line with the current collective agreement which sets out parameters. For example, to appoint a consultant, there is certain criteria that must be fulfilled. MAM will be giving VGH ten days to regularise the position of doctors it has employed so that they would be in line with all other medical treatment facilities across Malta and Gozo, failing this it would opt for either industrial action or arbitration.

Balzan also drew comparisons from when former health minister Konrad Mizzi oversaw the building of two floors at the Emergency Department in Mater Dei Hospital. He remarked at how efficiently and diligently the job was carried out, that the government obviously is competent and efficient when it throws its weight behind a project and therefore cannot understand the murky involvement of foreign companies with dubious track-records.

 

 

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