The Malta Independent 23 May 2024, Thursday
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‘If we followed PN’s advice and kicked Steward out, we would have had to pay €100 million’ - Fearne

Marc Galdes Monday, 27 February 2023, 19:59 Last update: about 2 years ago

Health Minister Chris Fearne told Parliament on Monday that had the government followed the PN’s advice of kicking Steward Health Care out of the hospitals concession immediately, then the country would have had to fork out 100 million.

Fearne was speaking in a heated debate in Parliament on the concession, after a court declared it null and void on Friday.

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The 100 million is a reference to the amount of money that the government would have had to pay Steward Health Care if the concession were to be stopped, a figure established by a side-agreement cooked up and signed in secret by former government minister Konrad Mizzi.

Fearne told Parliament that in the time he has been Health Minister he has faced a lot of challenges, most notably the Covid-19 pandemic, but also in relation to the concession agreement.

He added that he had already asked for the VGH agreement to be investigated in the past, noting that the National Audit Office had carried out its own investigation into it.

Speaking about last year’s electoral campaign, Fearne spoke of how PN leader Bernard Grech said that if he were to become PM, then the PN would immediately end the concession agreement, knowing full well that Delia’s case was still ongoing.

Fearne said that if Grech had become Prime Minister and done this, or had the government chosen to listen to him, then Steward would have left last year and the government would have had to pay €100 million which was part of a secret side letter agreement.

Upon saying this, the PN benches erupted into angry shouts, with PN MP Chris Said being singled out by the Speaker and at one point also being told to leave the chamber.  The Gozitan MP calmed down and was allowed to retain his place.

Fearne continued by saying because the government let the institutions work, and because of Delia’s case, Steward left and the government did not have to shell out the €100 million.

Once again, he assured people that the hospitals will continue working normally without any problems.

He said that in case an appeal is filed, the faster it is heard and a decision is taken, the better.  Irrespective however, this will not have an impact on the services currently offered, he said.

“Everything will continue working,” he said.

He said that last year around 4,500 operations were conducted at the Gozo General Hospital.

He also added that essential services which have to do with the running of the hospitals like IT and machinery mechanisms will continue just the same. Even the Barts Medical School at the Gozo General Hospital will continue offering its services.

Fearne concluded by saying that he had been factual and technical in his speech, however, noted that there were still a lot of shouting and allegations that were lobbed at him by PN members opposite.

“Don’t waste your time trying to divide us. In good weather, we are united, and even more so in stormy weather,” Fearne said.

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