Chris Fearne in appeal to Labourites: ‘We are a force for good and no one is bigger than the party’

Health Minister assures ‘genuine Labourites’ that ‘no one is bigger than the party or the country’

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne
Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne

Chris Fearne has told Labourites “no one is bigger than the party or the country” as he addressed disgruntled voters in the wake of dismal poll results.

In an appeal to what he described as “genuine Labourites”, the Health Minister insisted that despite its mistakes, the Labour Party has always been “a force for good”.

“The Labour Party was always a force for good. We have the courage to realise that no one is bigger than the party, and the country,” Fearne said in parliament on Tuesday when speaking about the budget estimates for the health sector.

The reference could be interpreted as a subtle dig against former prime minister Joseph Muscat, who along with his then chief of staff Keith Schembri and former minister Konrad Mizzi, had been the brains behind the dubious Vitals hospitals concession.

Muscat had championed the deal, and has insisted Cabinet was aware of all agreements with Vitals and later Steward Health Care. The deal was struck down by the courts last month with the judge attributing fraudulent intent to the private companies and "ingenuity" to public officials who put the government with its back to the wall.

Fearne was also part of the cabinet at the time, but had testified in court that all contractual arrangements between government and Steward continued being handled by Mizzi behind his back.

The Health Minister's appeal came after speaking about government’s announcement that it informed Steward it will be taking over the hospitals in what it described as a ‘control step-in’.

In a statement on Tuesday, government said it notified Steward it will proceed with a ‘control step-in’ to take over Gozo General, Karin Grech and St Luke’s hospitals with an immediate takeover of the three hospitals.

Fearne said the PL has “learnt its lesson” from the hospitals concession saga.

“This is not the first time we faced challenges. We faced a very difficult one four years ago, and we emerged even stronger,” he said, referring to Muscat’s resignation in 2019, which saw Robert Abela succeeding him as prime minister.

The health minister said government is now looking to the future, and has the opportunity to improve the country’s health service.

“We were, are and will continue to be a force for good,” Fearne said.