The announcement of a government call for a pre-fabricated hospital during the spread of coronavirus has been met with criticism and raised further questions about the role and service being given by Steward Healthcare, which owns three of Malta’s public hospitals.
The call was issued by the Foundation for Medical Services for the purchase, delivery and installation of a modular, extendable, fully-equipped pre-fabricated hospital which must be up and running within eight weeks and can cater for more than 90 patients and staff.
This call for a new hospital comes over and above the three that already exist: Gozo General Hospital, St Luke’s and Karin Grech. These are being run by Steward Healthcare at a cost of €188,000 daily, or €70 million per year.
In a tweet, Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola said Malta should not need a pre-fabricated hospital, but rather, should have St Luke’s Hospital up and running. “When this is all over the disgraced Konrad Mizzi had better answer for giving away our hospitals to use as a cash-cow for his buddies”.
This is welcome and sadly necessary.
But when this is all over the disgraced Konrad Mizzi had better answer for giving away our hospitals to use as a cash-cow for his buddies.
— Roberta Metsola MEP (@RobertaMetsola) March 24, 2020
Nationalist MP David Thake also slammed the necessity of building a pre-fabricated hospital and pointed out that another option for the government was “to take back the hospitals that (former Prime Minister) Joseph Muscat and MP Konrad Mizzi pawned off to their corrupt friends at Vitals”.
He emphasised that Prime Minister Robert Abela was obliged to investigate the deal and find the ultimate beneficiaries.
In a post on social media, former Mosta Nationalist Party Councillor Karl Tanti described it as “shameful”.
“The country had three large state hospitals which it sold to dodgy businessmen with no prior experience in the healthcare sector for a pittance,” he said, adding that it is the result of Muscat and Mizzi’s corrupt deals.
On Saturday, The Shift revealed that Steward Healthcare was sending patients in Gozo who tested positive for COVID-19 to Malta’s public hospital Mater Dei, which is managed by the government. A recent parliamentary question revealed that, currently, there are 812 workers at the Gozo Hospital directly employed by the government, while another 302 employees work with private companies at the hospital.
The Shift’s revelations were picked up by members of the public, with one medical doctor working on the frontline of the virus at Mater Dei calling out the move.
“Offloading all the load of this outbreak on MDH (Mater Dei Hospital) is unrealistic. As far as I am aware, Stewards took over the leadership of GGH (Gozo General Hospital) with the aim that it serves as a hospital, not a health centre,” he said on social media. He added that political decisions had put the “universality of healthcare at risk”.
Recent media revelations also showed that final year medical students were being called in to give a helping hand in the crisis.
Steward Healthcare is being paid €70 million per year, or €188,000 per day from the Maltese government for potentially 99 years – a contract guaranteeing €7 billion in revenue. These payments do not stop despite the government carrying the additional burden of a pandemic.
The Shift revealed that Steward Healthcare paid the total sum of €1 to take over the concession from Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) for three of the country’s public hospitals, while the original once-secret owners left with millions.