The Malta Independent 5 August 2020, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Malta’s hospitals - Stop and think

Monday, 24 February 2020, 09:50 Last update: about 6 months ago

The idea of three of Malta’s hospitals being permanently sold to the private sector is one that raises concern for a number of reasons.

Sources told The Malta Independent on Sunday Steward Healthcare is asking the government to purchase the three state hospitals - Karin Grech, St Lukes and the Gozo General Hospital – which it currently runs, or to get paid more for its concession deal.

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First off, the Gozo General Hospital is the only hospital in Gozo. Therefore, if sold, Gozo will technically not have a publicly owned hospital.

Malta prides itself on tis free healthcare system, and many improvements have been made over the past years to this syste, but how fair would it be to Malta’s sister island if the hospital there was outright sold to a private company?

As things stand today, patients are still treated freely… but if the hospital is sold would that remain? This is a critical question that needs to be tackled

Malta is overpopulated, and as such hospital space is needed. Should Karin Grech Hospital and St Luke’s Hospital be sold, would the services provided there which are offered for free to the public remain so? If not, would a new public hospital need to be built taking up further land?

The Original deal with Vitals Global Healthcare was the subject of much scandal. Steward Healthcare took over that deal. While Steward Healthcare seems to be far better suited to run the hospitals than Vitals Global Healthcare ever was, the idea of permanently selling off three of Malta’s hospitals to the private sector could have many repercussions, and even if, for example, an agreement is struck to keep offering services for free now, who is to say that 10-12 years down the line, things wouldn’t change? Then what…

At the same time, the Opposition is arguing that the government should immediately terminate the deal with Steward Healthcare for the running of three hospitals. Prime Minister Robert Abela has said that he has appointed experts to look into the contract, Delia said when speaking on the Nationalist Party media.

As such, it is clear that there would not be agreement by the Opposition for such a move.

In terms of paying more for the concession deal, it seems pretty clear that the Opposition would most likely argue against this too. As such, this also seems as though there would not be agreement. Such decisions, given that they affect the whole of the island, should at least require a unanimous agreement.

As for whether the government should pay more for the concession, that would need to be seen. It must be seen whether that would make financial sense in terms of the benefit to the taxpayer, and what the consequences would be if such a proposal is rejected. One also needs to look at the current contract and see whether Steward is upholding their end of the bargain.

The government needs to carefully think about their next step, but what is for sure is that if the hospitals are sold, there could be unforeseen consequences down the line that might not have an effect on the country now, but in the years to come.

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