Delia offers bipartisan support to stop Steward hospitals concession contract

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia says the PN was ready to work alongside government if it commits to bringing down the multi-million hospitals privatisation contract

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia
Opposition Leader Adrian Delia

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia said that he's holding out his hand for Prime Minister Robert Abela to join forces in stopping the Steward Health Care hospitals concession deal. 

"I am telling Prime Minister Robert Abela that the Opposition is by his side if he offers to stop this contract. We will take off our political colours, our partisanship, and stand on the same line against Steward. Let's fight them together, make sure that we stop paying them and that every penny robbed is returned to us," Delia said.

Speaking on NET FM, the PN leader appealed for the Prime Minister to join him in court to stop a deal that was costing the country millions of euro without guaranteeing any tangible results.

Delia said that he was informed that Robert Abela had said no to his predecessor Joseph Muscat's appeal to renegotiate the Steward contract but that simultaneously he hadn't "picked him up and sat him down and told him he was responsible for theft."

The former Prime Minister had previously taken up the mantle for Steward Healthcare, requesting a meeting with his successor on the future of the hospitals’ privatisation project. He had attended a meeting together with Steward Healthcare International’s president Armin Ernst with Prime Minister Robert Abela and deputy PM and health minister Chris Fearne, as well as principal permanent secretary, at the Auberge de Castille.

Muscat was said to have communicated his wish to see that the privatisation project goes on as initially promised.

"The government made this deal, gave three hospitals to Steward and €240 million so that the company can start providing a service. But Steward has not even spent any of this money on maintaining the hospitals, let alone started to provide a service. And yet the government is still paying them €50 million a year," Delia said on Saturday.

He added that Abela must stop the contract immediately after the Prime Minister had announced that he had contracted experts to look at the contract.

"Why?" Delia retorted. "What do you need to see? Look around you, look at St Luke's hospital. Listen to medical professionals. St Luke's is in a complete state of abandonment. Look at Mount Carmel. With €240 million we could work on delivering a service to the many who suffer from respiratory illness, who want to go abroad for intensive care, for all those on the waiting list to join elderly care homes, to get more staff for the health sector."

Delia criticised Finance Minister Edward Scicluna for the €15 cheque intended for the bread and milk prices hike and added that such a cheque was ludicrous when he was also responsible for a treasury that was giving out millions to a company that was not fulfilling its contractual obligations.

"Everything is falling apart around Robert Abela. Joseph Muscat and Konrad Mizzi are still around him, still part of Labour's parliamentary group. What is Abela waiting for?"

Delia said that the court case he had filed against Vitals Global Healthcare, the first company that had won the hospitals concession, had revealed various weaknesses in their successors. 

"In court, Steward started presenting amateur draughts and said they would soon start work. They have not even applied to start implementing the designs when this should have started years ago before the government started paying them millions a year," Delia said.

In a recent segment on TVM's Xtra, health minister Chris Fearne had insisted that the government would make sure that it got its money's worth from Steward in terms of the concessions and that if commitments are not fulfilled by the American healthcare giant, the government would take necessary action.

Delia turned his guns once again on former police minister Michael Farrugia and said that he too should shoulder responsibility for the police corp scandal that allowed officers to get paid for overtime work they never did.

"Farrugia said that he would only answer for himself. He should have been doing his job while corruption was taking place under his nose. Otherwise, he's like the officers who were getting paid without showing up for work. Saying he only answers for himself means that he does not even have the mental composition to understand the job of a minister.

"He has to shoulder responsibility. It is what happens in all democratic countries," Delia said, adding that Robert Abela should start taking action.

Concluding the radio interview, Delia said that he was currently on a nationwide tour to gather support and said that he was trying his hardest to invite new ideas for the Nationalist Party.

"I don't want us to have vertical leadership. I want to widen the party, allow it to have more branches, more organs that will involve more individuals. We want absolute transparency. I am visiting Maltese towns and villages and speaking to people," he said, adding that though the government had thwarted politics to look "ugly", there was another brand of politics that was inviting, hopeful and that was currently being championed by the PN.