[WATCH] Government betrayed the people in ‘criminal’ VGH hospitals deal - Adrian Delia

PN leader Adrian Delia calls on government to shoulder responsibility over Vitals and Steward hospitals deal 

Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia has urged the government to shoulder responsibility for the Vitals and Steward hospitals deal
Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia has urged the government to shoulder responsibility for the Vitals and Steward hospitals deal

Adrian Delia has urged the government to shoulder responsibility for betraying the people through the deal for the management of three of Malta’s hospitals.

The PN leader said the concession given to Vitals Global Healthcare, and later transferred to Steward Health Care, for the management of St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo hospitals, constituted an immorality and a betrayal of the people.

The lack of fulfilment of the concessionaires' obligations to convert St Luke's into a state-of-the-art hospital, to modernise Gozo General hospital, and to provide over 800 extra beds, was now being acutely felt since the country now needed more health facilities to cater for COVID-19 patients.

Delia, who was speaking during a press conference on Thursday, appealed to Health Minister Chris Fearne and Prime Minister Robert Abela to “do what is needed at this current time” to hand over the hospitals back to the Maltese people.

His comments come after MaltaToday reported on Sunday that, in August 2019, former tourism minister Konrad Mizzi had given Steward an “escape clause” in their contract whereby the government would have to pay the US company €100 million should the contract be terminated. The money will have to be paid out even in the event that Steward are found to be in breach of their concession agreement by any tribunal.

“The Opposition understands that this is a particular moment in the history of our country, and we won’t be hopping onto a partisan bandwagon over the issue. We are ready to support the government in fighting this battle to get our hospitals back, so that the people don’t have to pay €100 million to take back what is rightfully theirs,” Delia said.

Edward Scicluna has to also shoulder responsibility - Mario de Marco

PN MP and shadow finance minister Mario de Marco had harsh words for Edward Scicluna, whom he said had abdicated from his ministerial responsibilities when he allowed the Vitals and Steward deal to materialise and remain in place, despite the obvious shortcomings.

“The government has to shoulder responsibility, including Finance Minster Edward Scicluna. Although Scicluna is trying to say he wasn’t involved, we know that a finance minister has a dual role: to collect taxes, but also to ensure that government income is used efficiently and wisely,” de Marco said.

“Traditionally, the finance minister is responsible for the government’s public procurement. But it is clear that Scicluna chose to abdicate, in the most absolute way, from his responsibilities, when it came to the three hospitals’ contract.”

De Marco went on to name a long list of things Scicluna would not have done had he undertaken his duties properly.

“He would not have permitted an MOU to be given to Vitals before a call for proposals was even issued; he wouldn’t have allowed that a contract worth billions of euro be awarded to a start-up with no health sector experience; he would never have permitted that clauses meant to protect the tax payer and the state be left out of the contract; he would have ensured that Vitals and Steward honoured their obligations and were penalised for not doing so; he wouldn’t have allowed Vitals and Steward to be paid for work they didn’t do; and he would never have permitted Vitals to sell their government contract to Steward,” de Marco said.

“We should remember that Scicluna, as well as former ministers Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona, are, following a court decision, subject to criminal investigation over the [hospitals] contract.”

Scicluna’s responsibility, de Marco stressed, “goes over and above the collective responsibility of cabinet.”

MaltaToday’s revelations on the €100 million escape clause had given Scicluna even more to answer for, the PN MP added.

“We all agree this is legally and morally wrong… it is wrong whichever way you look at it,” he said, as he reiterated his call for Scicluna to stop hiding behind the excuse that he wasn’t responsible for the contract. “He is responsible for public procurement and for how the Maltese state’s funds are used - he too should shoulder responsibility.”

Window for COVID-19 to spread left open

Addressing the conference, PN MP Stephen Spiteri underlined the government's duty to ensure there are enough health care facilities - including extra beds, ventilators, trained medical staff and ITU/high-dependency beds - to cater for COVID-19 cases.

He noted that imported coronavirus cases had been decreasing, but that local transmission was on the rise.

In light of this, he said the government should put in place all measures to ensure the spread of the virus is slowed down in order for the health system not to be overloaded. 

“It is a contradiction to prohibit gatherings of over three people, when at the same time public transport is [overcrowded] and factories have dozens of people working together at the same time,” he said, “This is a red light.”

“The measures to protect elderly people and the vulnerable are good. But a window has been left open for the virus to spread. This is a worrying matter,” he said.

He added that Malta had to learn from what happened in other countries and make sure the health system was never placed under excessive pressure.