The Malta Independent 29 February 2020, Saturday

The mystery company taking over health for a generation

Claudette Buttigieg Friday, 17 June 2016, 09:54 Last update: about 5 years ago

It looks like Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) will be taking over the Gozo Hospital, St Luke’s and Karin Grech in the coming days. This is “official” not because the government (to date) has published any contract but simply because Ram Tumuluri, director of VGH, has visited two of the hospitals and informed the staff that this is happening.

Apparently, he also told them that this is not a temporary deal but a thirty-year contract.

At each meeting Tumuluri apparently made it very clear that he was sent there by the government to assure the employees.

It seems he also assured them that nursing standards will be met but, he said, the standards will be those set by the nurses’ union (MUMN). Strange.

We all know that a union does not set standards. It is the Health Department which sets the standards. We will have to assume that this was not the new official government position but a mistake.

Surely the new director of nursing will ascertain that such mistakes are corrected. After all, he is (or was) a union man himself. He should make sure that such slips are corrected before they cause more anxiety than there already is. 

Staff were also told that VGH is dealing closely with their unions. However, we all know that at least two unions (UHM and MAM who represent the allied health professionals and doctors respectively) will not be signing any agreement unless they are convinced that a proper due diligence of the investing companies has been done and published. This is, of course, a very sticky point.

Unfortunately, very little can be traced about VGH. VGH only features on the local news portals and the Projects Malta website. The latter falls under the Minister without a portfolio, Konrad Mizzi. Wouldn't you say that there are too many shady elements in this deal?

You would think VGH came from nowhere. It does not have even a basic website, although it has informed staff that one will be set up shortly to keep employees informed about the latest developments. I heard that some were even told regular up-dates will appear on a facebook page - how professional is that?

Still, if VGH are the investors, if they are taking over management, maintenance, etc. why did Chris Fearne go to the US to deal with Partners Healthcare International (PHI) to assist in the running of these hospitals? Isn’t that the investor’s job?

Minister without portfolio but with lots of cheek

Everybody has noticed Konrad Mizzi’s total absence from the media over the past few weeks. The strategy was simply to make him disappear so that people will forget that he is the only EU minister linked with the Panama Papers.

For a while, this strategy might have worked until he cheerfully walked into parliament last Wednesday with his usual Cheshire cat grin. He took his place and was given instructions by Edward Zammit Lewis who, in the absence of the Prime Minister and both party deputies, took the lead.

The attitude was to act like it is business as usual for the government side, although many of them were observing the Opposition closely to see how we would react to their Achilles heel.

Our reaction was obvious. Konrad Mizzi stood up to address parliament as though he still is the Minister responsible for the Water Services Corporation (which clearly seems to be the case). It was absurd beyond imagination. Anybody watching must have thought that everybody (except Konrad Mizzi and a few others) must be in a state of amnesia.

It was a self-indulgent moment for Konrad Mizzi and whoever came up with this Machiavellian move. They were hoping the Minister would remain unchecked and initiate a new phase in his political career - the comeback.

Somebody suggested it could be his process of repentance but Konrad Mizzi  never apologized for what he did. He was sorry for getting caught, and for having distracted the national attention from the government’s agenda, but he never so much admitted that what he did was wrong, let alone express regret for the wrong and damage he has done.

As members of the Opposition, we walked out. Konrad Mizzi, who is waiting to be summoned to the EU parliament for interrogation on the Panama Papers scandal, cannot act like it is business as usual. It is not and will not be treated that way.


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