The Malta Independent 24 September 2023, Sunday
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Steward Healthcare chose to ‘abandon’ hospitals deal - Prime Minister

Saturday, 18 March 2023, 10:40 Last update: about 7 months ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela on Saturday threw the ball back into Steward’s court, saying the company had chosen to terminate the deal it had with the government, and that the government will be doing its utmost to recoup money that was not used on the three hospitals.

In an interview on the Labour Party’s radio station, Abela said that before the court sentence was given, Stewards Healthcare had wanted to renegotiate its concession agreement, a position that the government had refused.

Last Thursday, Steward announced that it was terminating the deal it had reached with the government to run three hospitals – St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo, a day after it had appealed the court judgment which annulled the contract. On Friday, Steward set up a website giving what is said was “significant” information on what it had done in Malta.

On Saturday, Abela said that there will be a seamless transition from the Steward administration of the hospitals to public management.

He said nothing will change for workers at the three hospitals, who will continue to get paid as they have been paid in the past.

Referring to last Thursday’s heated debate in parliament, on an Opposition motion regarding the deal, Abela said that as he had promised, he had written to the Auditor General to request an investigation into the money which was transferred to Steward Health Care in connection with the now-annulled hospitals deal.

The Prime Minister requested an investigation by the Auditor General, through a letter referring to a mandate given by the Parliament to "take all necessary actions to recover those payments that were affected, and for which no investment or services had been given.”

Referring to the opposition’s attitude during the same sitting, the PM said that “it shows that nothing has changed” as he described the PN as continuously being arrogant over the past decade.

He said that after the judgment, he “expected the PN to be critical but to also come up with solutions”, adding that they did nothing of the latter.

He said that he couldn’t give comments about the case before for the simple reason that given there was a chance of appeal, the court sentencing was not definitive. “On Thursday I tried to do that but I wasn’t allowed by the opposition”.

He also said that apart from interrupting his speech, the PN was also “not acting as would expect in the highest institution of the nation”, towards the Speaker of the house.

Abela said that in order for the country to continue to achieve its goals, especially during these turbulent times, it needs to remain united and serene.

He promised, again, that the government intends to build a new hospital in Gozo.

The PM said “the PN is not credible” adding that the government is giving solutions to the issue to close the matter as soon as possible and to continue improving the health sector.

Asked about the PL celebrating a decade in government with the latest year being the start of the new legislature, Abela said how regardless of the many challenges the country faced, such as the Ukrainian war and the pandemic, the country’s economy continues to grow. He added that these results can also be seen in the European Commission comments where last November it forecast a 2.8% economic growth for Malta.

On other matters, the Prime Minister spoke about how the government has opened up more possibilities for first-time buyers of property.

Now they can ask the government for a loan up to €22,500 to help them cover the first 10 percent of a property price, which is usually the minimum requested by a bank before a loan approval.

He said that the government has launched a consultation process that will lead to the licensing of building contractors.

As the law currently stands, anyone who buys equipment can start operating as a contractor to demolish or build property.

He said that the bill is currently in its second phase.

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