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Medical staff on strike over hospitals deal

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Medical staff will be on strike in hospitals and health centres today after a meeting between the Medical Association of Malta (MAM) and the government yesterday failed to resolve concerns over the transfer of the Vitals Global Healthcare concession to Steward Healthcare.

MAM General Secretary Martin Balzan said the union was concerned over the transfer of St Luke’s, Karin Grech and the Gozo hospitals. The VGH deal was a controversial one that affected patient care, Dr Balzan said, and the government showed a lack of interest in seeing things change.

The union said it was not against Public Private Partnerships but the government should retain control and leadership of the hospitals. MAM said that the outcome of this dispute may have implications for the next 30 years “so please carefully consider the importance of this moment”.

MAM is calling on the government to retract its consent for the transfer and consult with it first, in line with a collective agreement.

Hospital staff who spoke to The Shift News said that since VGH took over, costs for medical supplies have spiralled.

The directives are expected to affect the Outpatients Department and the emergency department at the hospital, according to a statement by Mater Dei.

The health ministry said it would show MAM all contracts between the government and VGH. Yet, the last time the government made that promise what was eventually presented in Parliament were pages with all the essential information blacked out.

Details of the deal with VGH continues to emerge over the last two weeks after a panicked investor filed a warrant of prohibitory injunction to stop the sale to Steward Healthcare. The documents submitted in court shed light on the hidden investors and the fact that they had signed a secret deal with the government five months before the government issued a call for proposals, confirming that VGH knew they would be winning the bid. The Shift News also revealed that VGH did the same in Montenegro, except a change in government led to the agreement being torn up.

The sale to Steward Healthcare came less than two years since they were granted the concession, after financial trouble hit one of the key companies behind VGH in the British Virgin Islands. Maltese taxpayers have forked out over €50 million to VGH with nothing much to show for it since VGH missed the stipulated ‘milestones’ in the contract.

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