The Malta Independent 21 March 2023, Tuesday
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‘Relieved’: MUMN chief says Steward deal stagnated health sector

Sabrina Zammit Sunday, 19 March 2023, 09:30 Last update: about 2 days ago

Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) president Paul Pace said he felt “relieved” that Steward Healthcare is pulling out of the deal it had with the government to run three hospitals as the concession had “stagnated the whole health sector”.

“From our end it is a big relief that Steward is going to leave,” Pace said in comments to The Malta Independent on Sunday.


The investment that was supposed to have happened in the three hospitals did not materialise, he said. Worse than this, other parts of the health sector did not receive the investment required in the past eight years. As a result, the sector was allowed to deteriorate at the expense of the patients and staff; the real victims of the deal, Pace said.

On Thursday, Steward said they were terminating the concession, following what it described as "breaches of commercial agreements". A day earlier, the company had appealed the court judgment which saw the rescinding of the deal that had originally been reached by Vitals Global Healthcare, before it was handed over to Steward.

Asked for a reaction on this development, Pace said that “they (Steward) never changed anything”.

“We didn’t bring Steward to lead the hospitals but rather to invest in them; but nothing of the sort happened,” he said, adding that “with or without them it’s the same.”

Pace said he had “listened in disbelief” to what Prime Minister Robert Abela said in Parliament on Thursday about Steward’s investment. The Prime Minister was speaking during a debate on a motion presented by the Opposition.

Abela said that it was not right to say that Steward took €400m without carrying out any work, as the PN has been saying. He later said that he shall be sending a formal letter to the Auditor General to investigate the allegation made by PN MP Adrian Delia that Steward took €400m and gave nothing in return. Abela said that the idea that Steward only built a toilet was completely false.

Pace said that buying two ambulances and dental chairs cannot be described as investment. Neither can whitewashing of the orthotics and prosthetics building be termed as such.

On the impact the company left on workers, Pace said that “it’s not like they (Steward) added some kind of expertise, a new idea of culture; far from it, their absence isn’t going to be felt”.

He recalled how it was the MUMN who pushed for an investment in the physiotherapy department at St Luke’s Hospital. He said it took three months of directives for the space to be renovated.

“There are two victims in this situation – the patients and the staff working at the hospitals,” he said. He said that it is not the first time that patients died in one of the “10 spaces” transformed as wards at Mater Dei.

“Is this the kind of undignified death these people deserve?” he asked.

Asked what steps should be taken now, Pace said that after eight years of no investment in the health sector, there is a need for the government to “start” the ball rolling.

But it seems that the government is already coming up with excuses that “there is no money”, Pace said.

Pace said that there needs to be an investment in building “much-needed wards at Mater Dei, a mother and child hospital, together with the previous plans to build a new underground parking and for the refurbishment of Mount Carmel Hospital”.

He said that these projects are recycled in every budget speech.

The government would do well to try to recoup the money that was given to Steward as part of the deal and really invest it in the health sector, Pace said.


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