Steward Healthcare, the private company operating three of Malta’s national hospitals, yesterday asked for an urgent meeting with government over its failure to cough up some €18 million in due reimbursements, bluntly saying “we are basically at this stage subsidising healthcare in Malta!”
In two strongly-worded letters sent to Prime Minister Robert Abela, which were leaked to Lovin Malta, Steward complained of a lack of “meaningful or constructive engagement” by government and highlighted several substantial sums it was still owed according to the concession agreement.
The letters detailed the costs incurred by Steward when it took over the management of the hospitals from Vitals Global Healthcare. They also pointed out that while Steward was committed to resolving the issues left by its predecessors, including many legal claims it was battling in court, this could not be done without the support of the government.
“It is also important that the Government recognises that these claims/issues all arise from before our involvement in the Concession but in a period where the Government was, or should have been, closely involved in and overseeing the Concession, including the financing and construction arrangements relating to it. This duty is stipulated in the Concession Agreement and also represents a general duty to care, safeguarding the best interests of the citizens of Malta.”
“We cannot be expected to continue to incur the levels of cost exposure that we are currently doing in circumstances where the Government is not paying/reimbursing Steward for sums that it has properly incurred in the discharging of its obligations under the Concession Agreement,” one of the letters says.
The company said it believed it was close to signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the government last November to resolve the issues, but this was put off due to ”the political issues in Malta”.
“We have projected that over the course of the next month we will likely incur a further €400k of operational costs which will add to our exposure.
Whilst we agreed with your predecessor that we would take a commercial view and not pursue our entitlement in order to accommodate the political process, the time has now come to ensure proper payment of sums due is made and that there is clarity as to the future of this project.”
“It is neither reasonable, nor fair, for us to invest such significant sums whilst ill-informed Government sources criticise us unfairly in the media and to also expect us to incur yet further cost whilst there is such uncertainty over the project.”
“Forgive me for being blunt, but arguably we are basically at this stage subsidising healthcare in Malta!
We trust that you will meet with us as requested in our letter of 20 February and help clarify the direction of this project without further delay.”
Steward stressed that to fight legal cases made against it, the government had to support it with documentation and other information that pre-dated Steward’s involvement. It gave a deadline of 4th March for its demands to be met.
These include a single point of contact with government, documentation regarding the relationship with Vitals, “including any introductory arrangements and/or any arrangements relating to financial support”, and evidence of actual supervision over accounts and audits and clinical services.
Meanwhile, this morning MaltaToday revealed that the CEO of Vitals Global Healthcare Ram Tumuluri paid himself a bonus of €5 million over and above his €1 million salary in 2017, the year the company crumbled.
Abela yesterday told Net News decisions would be taken but failed to say who would take responsibility for the failures of the controversial hospital deal.
Meanwhile, Opposition leader Adrian Delia has called for the deal to be scrapped in its entirety and for the hospitals to be returned to Maltese citizens.