Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has refused to reveal the extent of Steward Healthcare Malta’s government debt insisting that such information was confidential in nature.
Speaking in parliament following a question from MP David Thake, Scicluna said that given the deal’s commercial nature, the data can “neither be collected or provided”.
Steward has been the operators of the concession to manage three state hospitals, St Luke’s, Karin Grech, and the Gozo General Hospital, ever since VGH dropped out of the 30-year agreement just 21 months into operations over mounting financial pressure.
VGH left a trail of debt in its wake, which stood at €36 million by the end of 2017. The current financial status of the company is unknown, but the massive debts are believed to be seriously hampering the new operators. Despite VGH’s ability to amass millions in debt, its CEO Ram Tumuluri still made off with a €5 million bonus.
Lovin Malta has reported how Steward was given assurances by former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and former Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi on deal when taking over. They were reportedly pressured into concluding the deal by December 2017, before payroll at Vitals Global Healthcare would come in and reveal the dismal financial situation.
Sources said they were given assurances with regards to a change in contract. It has been confirmed that a clause was entered insisting that the government would have to pay a €100 million fine if it terminated the deal.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue threatened to come to a screeching halt after Steward called for an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Robert Abela over the state’s failure to cough up some €18 million in due reimbursements.
However, it is set to erupt again after PN Leader Adrian Delia earlier announced that his party would table a parliamentary motion to scrap the deal.
Abela has said that discussions on the government’s contract with Steward Healthcare have been placed on the back-burner until the COVID-19 coronavirus situation clears up