Government spending on Steward Healthcare criticised

The government’s deal with Steward Healthcare, who owns and runs three of Malta’s hospitals, was criticised by Nationalist MP David Thake during a parliamentary session discussing the government’s latest aid package.

He referred to a statement made by Economy Minister Silvio Schembri who “boasted” that the government was going to spend €70 million a month on this aid package.

Thake pointed out that the government was paying €70 million a year to Steward Healthcare that was defaulting on obligations in the contract, yet the government continued to pay this money despite the goods and services not being delivered.

The deal with Steward Healthcare has come under harsh criticism these past few days in light of the pressure and demands put on the medical system by the spread of coronavirus. This week, the Foundation for Medical Services issued a call for a pre-fabricated hospital that must be up and running in eight weeks.

Another Nationalist MP, Mario de Marco, also pointed out the government’s lack of foresight and responsibility towards the Maltese over the deal with Steward Healthcare for the three hospitals.

Steward Healthcare runs three of Malta’s public hospitals – Gozo General Hospital, St Luke’s and Karin Grech – at a cost of €188,000 daily, or €70 million per year. The government also pays for medical staff.

Last week, 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. This increased the burden on the already stretched medical staff as was highlighted by a medical doctor who reacted publicly, saying the offloading was “unrealistic”.

Thake also referred to the government’s deal with Electrogas, saying it was the reason why the government could not reduce or waive utility bills as part of its aid measures. “Today’s rates are a result of the Labour Party’s promise when the price of oil was almost $120 a barrel”. Today, the price dropped to $23 and it was estimated that it would go down to almost $10 a barrel.

The Electrogas deal was going to cost the country an extra €1.3 billion over 18 years. Thake called out the prime minister for acting in a “partisan way” when he was asked a question about electricity bills during a press conference. “Why don’t you turn to some of your colleagues and ask them for the €5,000 a day they were going to receive,” he said.

The MP was referring to alleged kickbacks of €5,000 a day that Konrad Mizzi and former chief of staff Keith Schembri were to receive from 17 Black – the company owned by Yorgen Fenech.

“We have a government that was ready to give a guarantee to Electrogas when repaying its loan – won’t it then help the Maltese?” he asked.


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