The Malta Independent 18 August 2018, Saturday

INDEPTH: MAM refuses to meet Steward, says issues have to be discussed with government

INDEPTH online Friday, 9 February 2018, 14:17 Last update: about 7 months ago

The Medical Association of Malta (MAM) does not want to meet Steward Healthcare System representatives, and discussions should be between doctors’ union and the government, General Secretary Martin Balzan said on INDEPTH.

Interviewed by the Editor-in-Chief Rachel Attard, Balzan said that, “to this day we haven’t met them.” He added that, “the government knew we were never going to accept so they never invited us (MAM).”

 MAM and the government have been at loggerheads ever since Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) announced that it would be selling its 30-year concession to Steward, 21 months into operations, over what is believed to be serious mounting financial pressure, culminating with a call for industrial action with a strike taking place on 6 February.

Balzan insists that the government has breached the collective agreement, which was signed last May, after it was not informed or consulted six weeks prior to shares.

“After the government sold the three hospitals behind our backs, we fought the hardest for these clauses when negotiating the collective agreement in order to grant us greater rights. The Government and MAM agree in principle that private industry can be used to raise capital for a project in the health sector, but the operations need to remain in control of the government,” Balzan said.

Negotiations have been taking place with two meetings occurring last week, with MAM presenting a “proposal for a solution” to the current situation. 

Following the first meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne told The Malta Independent that he had offered all the documentation relating to the VGH deal to MAM, however, at the time of recording, the association was yet to receive two documents that had been requested, in spite of being told they would arrive that day.

In the interview, Balzan described the VGH deal as a “failure” when calling on the government to learn from its mistakes and “fix the defects in the deal” before giving their consent to the transfer.

“They gave VGH €60 million and we got nothing back,” Balzan said.

He also expressed his concern that  a private investor’s primary objective is to make profit and behave according to market rules, something he explains is impossible in Europe’s social democratic health system.

“No matter how much you earn, whether you’re the wealthiest or the poorest, you have access to same health service.”

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