Discussions on the government’s contract with Steward Healthcare have been placed on the back-burner until the COVID-19 coronavirus situation clears up, Prime Minister Robert Abela confirmed last night.
“I took the Steward issue seriously, took stock of all the contracts and the analysis is still ongoing but this isn’t the priority right now,” Abela said. “We were getting close to a decision but this [the COVID-19 crisis] happened and the issue was placed on the back-burner.”
“The government’s focus right now is on the pandemic and I am 100% focused on it, because if we get this wrong we won’t be able to talk about Steward or good governance, we won’t be able to recover as a country.”
“However, if we get it right, and I’m convinced that we’ll get it right, we’ll return to our priorities on good governance, including the Steward situation. We must see what’s best for the public – whether to continue with this deal, whether to amend it or whether to scrap it and the ancillary agreements.”
“I would have liked to take this decision earlier and were it not for [the COVID-19 crisis], the decision would have already been taken, but these circumstances have changed our priorities.”
Steward Healthcare has said it has prepared ten new ICU beds at the Gozo General Hospital for critically ill coronavirus patients and is making 100 non-ICU beds available for COVID-19 patients should the situation worsen.
An additional 28-bed ward is being made available to care for COVID-19 patients at Karin Grech Hospital.
However, the healthcare company has been criticised by the Opposition for not doing enough, specifically for not freeing up space at St Luke’s Hospital for COVID-19 patients.