Malta’s government and Steward Health Care are in discussions over the requirements and expectations of the controversial concession to manage three state hospitals.
Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne confirmed the detail following a parliamentary question from Gozitan MP Chris Said over the project’s master plan for the Gozo General Hospital.
Pressure has begun piling on Steward Health Care’s concession, which has faced allegations of corruption and management since it was first granted to Vitals Global Healthcare a few years ago. Even Finance Minister Clyde Caruana has said that the deal simply isn’t working.
VGH had first been granted a controversial concession for the Gozo General Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital and Karin Grech Rehabilitation Hospital. Mizzi was the minister responsible for the project.
It has been revealed that the government signed a Memorandum of Understanding months before a request for proposals was even announced.
The company was forced to sell off their operations to Steward Health Care just 21 months after starting amid growing financial debt, which stood at €36 million by the end of 2017. Its CEO, Ram Tumuluri, reportedly still made off with a €5 million bonus.
An un-redacted contract revealed that taxpayers were paying VGH around €188,000 a day (€70 million a year) to provide hospital beds to the state, €1.2 million a year for the Barts medical school and a further €1 million for a helicopter service.
Steward Healthcare was brought in to replace them. They were given certain assurances by the government, namely from former minister Konrad Mizzi and former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat when they were brought in to save the failing concession.
This included a massive €100 million buyout should the concession be rescinded and a secret €8 million bank guarantee (which has since been waived).
The deal has created massive gaps in operations – with Steward staff being paid less than their state counterparts for doing the exact same job. Meanwhile, the government continues to fork out millions for a service that is not too dissimilar from Malta’s.
Should the deal be scrapped?