Vitals Global Healthcare, the concessionaires for the operation of the Gozo, St Luke’s and Karin Grech hospitals, were served with garnishee orders for amounts totalling almost €70,000 in the last month.
Two garnishee orders were filed in court: one by PT Matic Environmental Services (PTM) for a debt totalling almost €47,000 filed on 1 Feb, and another by an American company Specialized Engineering Solutions (SES) for over €23,000 filed on 27 March.
A garnishee order is a court order that requires all persons on whom it is served, including banks, to block all assets due to the alleged debtor (up to the amount specified in the order) and also to deposit any available funds in court within 19 days from the date when the garnishee order was served.
PTM offers waste handling services, whereas the US company SES was hired to programme, plan and design innovative solutions at both St. Luke’s General Hospital Campus and Gozo General Hospital Campus.
“SES along with a design consortium that included Heery International (architect), Mediterranean Technical Services (local MEP Engineer) and Shapoorji Pallonji Group (contractor) where hired to programme, plan and design innovative solutions at both St. Luke’s General Hospital Campus and Gozo General Hospital Campus. The project…consisted of 250 million for construction in order to build an addition and renovate the existing St. Luke’s Campus while plans on the Gozo Campus called for a new standalone Bart’s of London School of Medicine and Dentistry along with a sizable addition and renovation to the Gozo General Hospital,” according to the company’s website.
The Malta hospitals concession awarded to Vitals Global Healthcare was controversial from the start. Investors were hidden, as were beneficial owners, with the deal fronted by a man with a track record of fraud – Sri Ram Tumuluri.
Financial trouble hit Vitals last summer. In December, less than two years after a concession of up to 99 years was granted to Vitals, the government announced the concession would be transferred to Steward Healthcare, which Health Minister Chris Fearne had called “the real deal”.
Vitals had not delivered on its commitments. The concession was in fact never transferred. Instead, the ownership of the company was transferred to Steward Healthcare while Vitals retained the concession.
An investigation by The Shift News, published in collaboration by The Sunday Times of Malta, showed that taxpayers were the losers in this public healthcare deal.
The announcement of the involvement of Steward Healthcare – with CEO Armin Ernst retaining his position despite the revolving door – lifted the lid on a number of unknowns when one of the original investors, Ashok Rattehalli, filed an injunction to try to stop the deal.
Rattehalli ended up getting 5% of the shares in the new arrangement based on documents that confirmed the government had signed a secret deal with the unknown investors at least five months before a public call for proposals was made.