The Malta Independent 25 June 2024, Tuesday
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Steward Health Care Malta appeals court verdict and requests European Court of Justice ruling

Wednesday, 15 March 2023, 13:07 Last update: about 2 years ago

Steward Health Care Malta (SHCM) has filed an appeal against the Maltese Civil Court judgement on the hospitals' concession agreement and requested a European Court of Justice (ECJ) Preliminary Ruling, the company said in a statement.

A Maltese court had annulled the concession agreement in February, ruling that three hospitals that were being managed by Steward Health Care are to be returned to government control. The three hospitals in question are St Luke's, Karin Grech and the Gozo General Hospital. The case had been filed by PN MP Adrian Delia when he was Opposition Leader in 2018. Delia had argued that Vitals Global Healthcare, and their heirs in title Steward Healthcare, had not fulfilled the contractual obligations tied to the deal. The court nullified the contracts awarded in a damning ruling which read that the concessionaires acted "fraudulently."

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In a statement on Wednesday, the company said that it "emphatically rejects the narrative of the judge's findings in relation to SHCM, an assessment that was made with no basis in evidence. This narrative is erroneous and could have been disproven had SHCM simply been asked to supply evidence on these counts to court - a request that was never made. This failing - along with most others present in the judgement - presents major concerns for the rule of law in Malta and has serious implications for the future of foreign investment in the country. Steward has filed, together with the appeal, an ECJ Preliminary Ruling request from the High Court."

"While SHCM has no position on or knowledge of events that took place while the concession was being awarded, the company has supplied significant documentary and other evidence to counter any claims made in its respect as part of its appeal. This evidence, which includes relevant interactions with the Government of Malta and documents outlining how Steward Health Care International transformed a bankrupt enterprise into a professionally managed operation with a sound financial footing, will help to inform the understanding of the Maltese people about the concession."

"SHCM notes that it kept the US Embassy and State Department - which was on several occasions present at negotiations on the concession terms - fully informed at all times of all relevant events and engagements with the Government of Malta. SHCM remains committed to operate at all times in accordance with its highest professional standards and values. Our priority was and remains always the provision of optimal healthcare to the communities and patients we are entrusted to serve."

The judgment by Mr Justice Francesco Depasquale had found that Steward had failed to live up to its end of the deal, by which it was given responisbility for the three hospitals.

"None of these completion milestones were observed or achieved by Vitals, today Steward," the judge said.

The judge also had words of reprimand for the way the government acted. "The government of Malta, instead of defending the interests of the Maltese people... incredibly accepted a change to the agreement," said the judge.

Steward had already said in its initial reaction to the judgement that it would pursue action contesting all allegations of wrongdoing raised in the court judgement, allegations which they considered "outrageous and without merit".

"From a preliminary review of the judgement, we believe there to be significant flaws in reasoning and award," the company had said. "We believe that the judgement, which goes far beyond the court's remit, presents major concerns for the rule of law in Malta and has serious implications for the future of foreign investment in the country," it added.

Following the judgement Prime Minister Robert Abela had successfully petitioned for the time in which Steward could file an appeal to be reduced, and had also said that if an appeal were to be filed then the government would petition for it to be heard with urgency.

PN leader Bernard Grech and Delia meanwhile have blasted the government on the deal, organising two protests - with a third to take place on Thursday when Parliament discusses a motion to condemn the deal and to oblige the government to get the money paid to Steward back.


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