Doctors' union in disagreement with government over Vitals deal since 2015

The Medical Association of Malta said that failure to respect 'safety net measures' agreed upon with the government has led to current dispute

The Medical Association of Malta has been objecting to the Vital deal since March 2015, the union said in a statement.

The Union said that it had been consistent on instated that principles come before profit since 2015.

The union said that failure to respect "safety net measures" agreed upon with the government had led doctors to the current dispute with the government.

READ MORE: MAM council authorises more doctors’ industrial action on 15 and 16 February

Last week, MAM’s council approved a resolution to proceed with further industrial action on Thursday and Friday should a crucial meeting with the Health Ministry on Monday result in a stalemate.

The doctors’ union has disagreed with the government over the way  the  St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo hospitals were transferred to Vitals Global Healthcare and how the concession was now being transferred to Steward Health Care.

MAM said that back in 2015, it had publicly objected to the Vitals deal over two main reasons: “one the complete lack of experience of the operator, and the dangers of government relinquishing its control of management and the resulting profit motive.”

“At that time there was complete secrecy of all the contracts,” the statement said.

Then, MAM and the government started efforts to draw up an agreement on vitals, but following the Panama Papers implicating then Health Minister Konrad Mizzi and the revelations of the hidden ownership of vitals, the union withdrew from the negotiations.

In December 2016, MAM, together with the Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin, wrote to the Public Accounts Committee which subsequently asked the Auditor General to investigate the contracts.

However, the investigation was not given priority.

“In May 2017, in an annex to the new collective agreement, a number of “safety net” measures on privatisation, including the need of a six-week notice were agreed upon,” MAM said.

“It is the failure to respect these safety net measures which has led the current dispute,” MAM said.

Speaking on Sunday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the government was willing to give certain assurances to MAM for the €200 million private sector investment to move forward.

A crucial meeting with the government is being held later on today.