Watch: Steward concession built on flawed Vitals deal must be dropped – UĦM

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The flawed process that led to Vitals being granted a concession on three public hospitals is sufficient grounds for the withdrawal of the concession granted to their successors Steward Health Care, according to UĦM – Voice of the Workers assistant director Gian Paul Gauci.

Gauci, who heads the union’s health services section, was being interviewed on 103 FM by Fr Joe Borg in the wake of a damning report by the National Audit Office on the Vitals contract. The report, which highlighted that there had been collusion between Vitals and the government, was instigated at the request of the UĦM and the Medical Association of Malta.

“From the outset, we always argued that the contract did not appear to have been drawn up to help the Maltese public, but to help someone else: probably Vitals and the people who lie behind it,” Gauci explained. The ultimate beneficial owners of Vitals, which had been registered in the secretive jurisdiction of the British Virgin Islands, remain unknown.

Gauci also noted that the union long argued that Vitals was not a serious company, and said that the NAO’s findings proved its claims. But he also insisted that if the original concession had been flawed, then the present concession granted to Steward could not be maintained.

“If we buy a home, fail to do background research only to discover that the property had been stolen, the acquisition is considered invalid,” he argued. “This contract is built on a flawed contract, on collusion between the government and Vitals.”

Steward only led to lower pay

Gauci also strongly rejected any assertion that Steward Health Care represented an improvement upon Vitals.

“We got nothing… we should have had a new hospital in Gozo and another one in Malta by now,” he said. “But the management has remained the same as it had been, and absolutely nothing has happened.”

He slightly corrects his statement by pointing out one change, albeit one of dubious merit.

“The only thing that happened is that Steward employed workers and paid them less, with the excuse that it was in the private sector, even though it is still treating patients through the public healthcare system,” he lamented.

“You have people working in the same wards, wearing the same uniforms and treating the same patients; but they are being paid less. This is illegal.”