State-owned residence for the elderly Zammit Clapp Hospital in St Julian’s, better known as the ‘Blue Sisters’, is expected to change hands soon after more than a decade of being managed by a company owned by developer Zaren Vassallo.
Following a call for tenders in November, a relatively new entrant in the market, Golden Care Ltd – owned by Paul Attard – was able to beat the competition, submitting the cheapest bid for a four-year contract.
The Shift is informed that while the incumbent, Care Malta, submitted a bid for €12.7 million, Golden Care (which already owns and manages a 250-bed home in Naxxar) managed to file an €11.9 million bid.
While the submissions are still being evaluated by the Department of Contracts, sources told The Shift that it is already a foregone conclusion among relatives of Zammit Clapp residents that a change in management is imminent.
The St Julian’s property, which is now expected to be taken over by Golden Care at a cost of some €2.9 million a year, currently has 131 residents, including several in a specialised dementia ward.
While the management of government homes is being privatised, it is the government that decides on the admission of individuals into these homes, according to a public partnership scheme.
Government secretive on deals with private sector
Meanwhile, the government is spending millions every year to ‘buy’ beds in private old people’s homes but it is refusing to give information on how taxpayers’ funds are being used.
Minister Michael Farrugia keeps refusing to answer questions in parliament on the number of beds the government is buying every year, from which home and at which rate. Farrugia said the information requested is of a “commercial nature”.
The government is spending millions on this bed-buying scheme but there is a total lack of transparency. Industry sources said that while no tenders are issued and all beds are being bought through contracts signed through direct order, the rates being given to homes vary from one another.
For example, while the government is paying less than €50 a night for buying a bed in certain private homes, it is paying more than €100 a bed night to others.
“The scheme, as is being administered by the government, is very secretive and gives rise to speculation of wrongdoing both from politicians and officials administering the system”.
Some years ago, the NAO had already commented on the administration of this scheme, recommending thorough guidelines and full transparency.
Sources told The Shift the lack of transparency is “by design” since it is a common occurrence for members of government to personally intervene so their constituents are admitted to residential homes.