Health privatisation: commercially sensitive parts censored as contracts are tabled in parliament

Contracts with private hospitals tabled in Parliament, commercially sensitive parts censored out • Doctors' union disappointed that large amounts of the contracts are missing

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Matthew Vella
19 October 2016, 7:16pm
Health minister Chris Fearne has tabled hospital privatisation contracts in the House
Health minister Chris Fearne has tabled hospital privatisation contracts in the House
The government has tabled the the contracts with Vitals Global Healthcare, the new private operator of the Gozo, St Luke’s and Karin Grech hospitals.

The contracts were tabled in parliament by Health Minister Chris Fearne.

Fearne said the contracts were being published with commercially-sensitive parts being censored out.

VGH, a firm whose ownership is registered in a Cayman Islands company, was chosen as the preferred bidder in June 2015 for the public-private partnership. It will be spending €220 million in a total revamp of the three hospitals, for a 30-year concession.

Partners Healthcare International, a US-based company that runs hospitals, will focus on the development of clinical quality and patient safety standards, benchmarks and systems, and the development of structures and systems for post graduate medical education.

The Opposition has long criticised the Labour government for its delay in publishing the contracts since it announced back in 2014 that the Gozo hospital would be used as a campus for a medical degree offerred by Queen Mary University London.

The Opposition said that the documents had been tabled with 60 pages missing, a fifth of the entire documentation, and 16 weeks after the contracts were first signed.

“Their publication comes after pressure from the PN, as well as a judicial protest signed by the Medical Association of Malta and Union Haddiema Maghqudin. As these unions said, the National Audit Office should investigate these contracts. The PN also reminds the public that the persons who negotiated these contracts, the PM’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and minister Konrad Mizzi, were caught opening offshore companies in Panama.”

In a comment, the MAM said it agreed with the publication but that it was disappointed that large amounts of the contracts are missing. “MAM is now awaiting the publication of the promised audit of these contracts and reserves its position until a due diligence exercise of these contracts by the Auditor General.”

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.