‘Be courageous and admit hospital deal failed’

The government should be courageous enough to admit that the deal through which Steward Healthcare has taken over the running of three public hospitals has failed and cut its losses, the PN’s health spokesman Stephen Spiteri said in Parliament this morning.

Spiteri argued that the government could instead divert the significant payments made to Steward to other initiatives in the sector, including the construction of a new mental health hospital.

The MP was speaking during debate on a proposed bill strengthening the regulation of medical devices, but after signalling the opposition’s approval of the bill, he quickly moved on to the controversial deal.

He condemned the lack of transparency surrounding the deal, noting that when the contract was made public, there were more blank pages and blacked-out sections than readable text.

“The government either entered into this agreement with its eyes closed, choosing not to safeguard the interest of the Maltese in the process, or it had ulterior motives in securing this deal,” Spiteri insisted.

Miguela Xuereb

He pointed out that the deal was reached with what he described as a “phantom company” – Vitals – which entered the scene with the deal and disappeared shortly afterwards, with no achievements to speak of. However, the situation was no better under Steward, the MP argued, stating that the country had not seen any notable investment in the hospitals managed by the company as a result of the €2 billion 30-year deal.

Spiteri emphasised that his opposition to the deal was not for political reasons, noting that similar objections were recently raised by the Medical Association of Malta.

He also noted that he readily praised the government’s positive initiatives in the health care.

“I was happy to see the Kirkop Health Centre open, and I’m happy to see the Paola Health Centre being developed,” the MP remarked.

But the Steward deal was clearly not working, he said, “so let us be courageous and admit that it has failed, and stop the waste of public funds.”