Investigation into Downtown Hotel after Gozo elderly relocated there

Gozo ministry pays Joseph Portelli’s hotel over €4,300 a day for 80 bed spaces after Gozo hospital elderly wing had to be relocated

Downtown Hotel
Downtown Hotel

The Social Care Standards Authority has opened an official investigation into the living conditions for senior citizens in Gozo moved out of the Gozo General Hospital into the Downtown Hotel in Victoria, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

A spokesperson for the authority said the investigation started the moment claims of poor conditions were published in the Times of Malta.

"As is normal procedure, whenever a shortcoming is flagged, we investigate the claim to determine its veracity and take the necessary steps to rectify it," the spokesperson said.

Independent candidate Arnold Cassola had also filed a complaint with the authority after the story appeared.

The hotel, which is partly owned (4%) by Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli, was selected by the ministries for Gozo, and health, on the basis of a negotiated procedure. The hotel is 96% owner by the Bajada group.

Steward Malta, the company that runs the Gozo General Hospital, has said 123 hospital beds could be made available at GGH, with 80 only becoming available following the relocation of elderly residents currently located at St Anna Ward.

Downtown Hotel will be providing 80 bed spaces at the rate of €54.79 per bed space – that is €4,380 a day – together with use of the hotel amenities.

The rate will also include any alterations required, the provision of cleaning services, reception services and general maintenance services. “The price, which is a competitive one in the circumstances, also factors in the loss of goodwill and reputation which the hotel has been building for the past years,” the Gozo ministry told MaltaToday when asked for the rate.

“The negotiated cost was therefore deemed fair and reasonable, especially in the public health emergency circumstances being faced at this particular moment in time. As a matter of fact the migration procedure has been finalised, thus ensuring the protection, wellbeing and health of our elderly, whilst providing much needed space within GGH.”

But relatives of two elderly patients who died at the Gozo hotel after being moved there from the island’s hospital last week described their distress to The Times  over the “claustrophobic” conditions.

“The rooms are too small for two patients,” said Antoinette Mizzi. “The corridors and lift are also small. The building is a far cry from the good conditions at the hospital, and the move to such claustrophobic conditions has been traumatic for the elderly.”

Mizzi’s 90-year-old mother suffered from heart complications and died last Sunday. Another woman, who preferred to remain unnamed, expressed “fury” at the conditions in which her grandmother had found herself in before her death. The 92-year-old woman, who was bedridden but had no other specific health conditions, died the day after she was moved.

“I was horrified when I went to the hotel after my grandmother died and saw the room she was in,” the woman said. “There were just two beds, one for each patient, and a bedside table in between the beds, and no room for anything else.”

The hotel was chosen after the COVID-19 task force prepared a contingency plan in the case where Mater Dei Hospital would no longer be in a position to accept Gozo patients diagnosed with COVID-19. “The government was therefore faced with a number of considerable challenges which necessitated a swift and calculated response,” the Gozo ministry said.