The Malta Independent 23 June 2024, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: Years lost

Tuesday, 21 May 2024, 10:37 Last update: about 2 months ago

We have lost too much time when it comes to investment in key health infrastructure due to a terrible deal struck by the government years ago.

The concession agreement the government signed with Vitals Global Healthcare was evidently bad practically right from the start.

The company lacked experience in healthcare and hospital management. Milestone after milestone was missed, yet the government at the time ignored warning signs and kept the deal in place. Eventually the concessionaire changed, but regardless, what the people were promised for the most part did not materialise.

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In a judgement last year, the court annulled the concession and mentioned the word fraud in its judgement, and the Court of appeal confirmed the decision, in a judgement that mentioned collusion.

Now serious criminal charges have been brought forward against a number of people, including past and present politicians.

The court will decide who is innocent and who is guilty.

But one thing is for sure, the people are the ones who paid the price. St Luke’s was left abandoned. Mater Dei Hospital has had to create makeshift wards to keep up with the ever-increasing population because of the lack of beds elsewhere. Gozo General Hospital has not yet had its promised expansion.

The country lost years and years of work that could have been carried out on hospitals infrastructure, but which wasn’t. And that is the responsibility of all those who signed, backed and voted to protect the hospitals agreement. The patients are the ones who lost out. Waiting lists because of not enough space or equipment, people placed in hospital corridors... the hospitals deal is to blame, at least partially.

Had the government found a more competent private sector partner when it decided to go to the private sector to start with, perhaps we would not be in a situation where now the government is scrambling to put forward plans and put out fires.

The health ministry recently announced a masterplan for the Gozo hospital. It is also in the process of creating plans to make 600 beds available at Mater Dei Hospital, part of which requires revamping St Luke’s and making use of a building in Swatar for Admin staff. One still needs to see what doctors and other staff make of the plans, but one thing is for sure, shouldn’t the revamping of St Luke’s and the upgrading of the Gozo hospital have been done years ago... or perhaps at least be in the stages of construction by now? So much time has been wasted, so much time has been lost.

The President of the Medical Association of Malta, Martin Balzan, had told The Malta Independent on Sunday that "the problem we face today is that our healthcare infrastructure is inadequate."

"We don't have space as life expectancy has increased, the population has grown and we have 150,000 foreign workers. They are of course welcome in the country, but they also get sick just like everyone else, so the demand for health services has increased but the infrastructure hasn't really increased,” Balzan said. "The only real investment in health infrastructure that I can see over the past ten years was the Paola health centre,” Balzan added.

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