Hospital can deal with whom it likes, says Mizzi on secret Vitals-Technoline deal

Konrad Mizzi, who privatised three state hospitals over to Vitals, says government cannot ‘butt in’ over procurement model of private company entrusted to run Maltese hospitals

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi
Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi

Konrad Mizzi, who as health and energy minister had privatised Maltese state hospitals to the unknown Vitals Global Healthcare, has shrugged off any governmental responsibility for the company’s secret purchase of a medical equipment supplier.

The owners of Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) secretly purchased medical supplier Technoline used offshore companies in Jersey and then drafted an exclusivity agreement for the supply of medical equipment to the three hospitals they were running.

Mizzi however hit back at the perception that government was responsible for the VGH deal with Technoline, which is still in force after VGH had to sell out to American healthcare giant Steward.

“The government has an agreement with a concessionaire in the same way that we have an agreement with the Freeport terminals and the Malta International Airport. The concessionaire enters into contracts with different elements of the supply chain. The government had nothing to do with it,” he said.

“The private sector has a right to enter into contract with whoever it likes. However, we prefer that Steward Healthcare does not adopt the model where there is a single source of procurement. It seems to be doing things differently than VGH but that’s their call not the government’s call,” Mizzi said.

Asked whether the Vitals’s use of offshore companies to hide their purchase of Technoline merited a criminal investigation, Mizzi said that he had got his information on this issue from the media and could not confirm or otherwise. “I was not aware of this before the media revealed the story. The agreement is for us to improve our healthcare, and in the coming months, we will complete the Barts Medical School [in Gozo]. We will benchmark costs vis-a-vis Mater Dei to make sure that we get our value of money.”

News of the secret agreement, in which VGH investors used offshore companies to loan Technoline’s sales manager Ivan Vassallo €5.14 million loan to buy off his boss was revealed in a share purchase agreement published by The Shift News earlier in the week. This was happening while VGH were contracted to make decisions on three Maltese state hospitals that it had acquired in a 30-year concession.

MaltaToday asked the tourism minister whether he personally condemned the Technoline deal now that the media had enlightened him, but only said that “multiple models of procurement were preferred” by government. “I cannot butt in with regards to how the private sector does its business or how it completes maintenance to its equipment. It’s not the government’s initiative, but we still feel that multiple models of procurement would be better in the future,” he said.