Health Minister Chris Fearne has opened up about the sense of frustration he felt after finding out Steward Healthcare was negotiating with both himself and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi.
Fearne confirmed in court today that Steward was complaining about the Health Ministry’s interpretation of parts of its concession, arguing the Ministry was being too rigorous so as to withhold certain payments.
In November, Fearne found out that Steward was also carrying out separate negotiations with Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Office of the Prime Minister.
Mizzi’s ministry at the time also included responsibility for Projects Malta, the government entity which spearheaded the original concession, which was granted to Vitals Global Healthcare to modernise and run the St Luke’s, Karin Grech, and Gozo General Hospitals.
“I wasn’t happy about this and wrote a memo about it, which said that either everything should fall under the Health Ministry, or nothing at all. I meant to table it [in Cabinet] but Mizzi resigned that same day Mizzi,” he said.
Mizzi resigned in the wake of Yorgen Fenech’s arrest for the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Fearne was summoned to court today to testify in a case instituted by PN MP and former Opposition leader Adrian Delia which calls for the hospital contract to be scrapped.
He said the presentation of the request for proposals, which Vitals won, made sense on paper because of the “pitiable” state the Gozo General Hospital was in at the time. If the plan worked out, Vitals would have invested heavily in Gozo’s hospital, as well as St Luke’s and Karen Grech, keeping healthcare free but making profits through medical tourism.
When asked by Delia about Vitals’ lack of experience in the medical sector, Fearne responded that the concessionaire had been backed by Harvard.
However, Fearne admitted he wasn’t happy with Vitals’ progress on the project following the 2017 general election and demanded more scrutiny, particularly with regards to the Barts Medical School they were building.
Eventually, Vitals sold its concession to Steward after running into financial problems.
What do you make of Chris Fearne’s testimony?