Higher expenditure on Steward hospitals reflects general increase in health budget, Fearne says

Health Minister Chris Fearne says €20 million more to be spent on the Gozo and Karin Grech hospitals has nothing to do with ongoing talks with Steward Healthcare

The Gozo General Hospital
The Gozo General Hospital

An increase of €20 million in government expenditure on the Gozo and Karin Grech hospitals is unrelated to ongoing talks with Steward Healthcare, Chris Fearne said.

The estimates for next year show that government will be spending €46 million on the Gozo hospital concession agreement, an increase of €10.4 million, and €23 million on Karin Grech rehabilitation hospital, an increase of €9.3 million.

But the Health Minister insisted on Tuesday that the higher expenditure on the two hospitals reflected the general increase in the overall health budget.

“There are no new arrangements with Steward. There were discussions on the interpretation of certain clauses and have sought the advice of the State Advocate on the matter but the increases reflect the bigger health budget overall,” Fearne said.

The two hospitals and St Luke’s Hospital were granted on concession by the government to Vitals Global Health Care in 2015 but the company with no track record in medicine failed to live up to its obligations. Eventually, Vitals pulled out and sold the concession to American company Steward Healthcare.

Steward had asked for a renegotiation of the contract and those talks have not yet concluded.

A new state-of-the-art general hospital in Gozo, which is one of the obligations imposed on Steward, had so far failed to see the light of day and the refurbishment of St Luke’s Hospital to attract medical tourism is nowhere in sight.