[WATCH] Steward hospitals deal is ‘complicated’, Finance Minister admits

Xtra on TVM News Plus | Finance Minister Clyde Caruana admits that the Steward hospitals concession agreement is a ‘complicated’ affair

Finance Minister Clyde Caruana
Finance Minister Clyde Caruana

There is no clear-cut way of changing the hospitals privatisation deal with Steward Health Care or pulling out of it completely, Clyde Caruana has admitted.

“It’s complicated,” the Finance Minister said during a debate with shadow Opposition spokesperson Mario de Marco on Xtra, broadcast on TVM News Plus.

Caruana said government has had long discussions with the American company that took over the concession for the Gozo, Karin Grech and St Luke’s hospitals from Vitals Global Healthcare.

“It is clear that there are problems with that deal but to change it or pull out of it is not clear cut and discussions are still underway,” Caruana said. “The situation is more complicated than simply paying any penalty and pulling out.”

The minister was replying to the argument put forward by UĦM CEO Josef Vella, who said government should simply pull out of the agreement even if it means having to pay Steward since the company has failed to live up to its obligations.

Caruana said a substantial amount of money that government pays Steward goes to finance the wages of people who work in these hospitals and which will have to be paid anyway had the hospitals remained in public hands.

The concession agreement had bound government to continue paying for the wages of workers but Steward had to invest millions to build a new general hospital in Gozo and overhaul Karin Grech and St Luke’s hospitals.

Opposition finance spokesperson Mario de Marco
Opposition finance spokesperson Mario de Marco

The Opposition has called for the deal to be scrapped and former Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia has an ongoing court case to get the agreement to be scrapped.

De Marco said a PN government will terminate the Steward contract.

“This deal is a clear example of government’s lack of prudence in financial management because we are paying millions for nothing… There are contractual milestones that have not been met. Steward are in breach of the contract and so I will terminate it,” de Marco said.


The Opposition spokesperson said government was not being transparent on its actions to address Malta’s greylisting by the Financial Action Task Force.

“There is a lack of discussion with the Opposition and stakeholders. Government has so far failed to publish the reasons why we failed and what it agreed with the FATF. My fear is that government is picking on the small fish to avoid picking on the large fish, which may be uncomfortable for government,” de Marco said.

Caruana rebutted, insisting that a lot of work is being done behind the scenes on the recommendation of the FATF assessors.

“We had a recent meeting with the FATF committee and they saw the improvements we are doing and if we maintain the pace we can be subjected to another review next year,” Caruana said.

Asked about the impact of greylisting on the economy, the minister said that the general economy continued performing well but admitted that operators in the financial services sector did suffer some “uncomfortableness”.