Cardiologist who resigned from MP to join VGH says government ‘bamboozled people’

Prof Albert Fenech slams Konrad Mizzi, telling The Shift he “absolutely” changed his mind about the deal he had previously defended

 

Professor Albert Fenech, a former PN MP who had resigned from his parliamentary seat to turn his attention towards setting up a cardiac unit in Gozo with Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) in January 2016, told The Shift that the deal with the concessionaire had “bamboozled quite a few people”.

Fenech stopped working for VGH in December 2018, the same year in which the concession was handed over to Steward Health Care following increasing reports of VGH’s financial inadequacy for the project and the need for the project to be bailed out.

“I was employed to set up the cardiac unit in Gozo, something I’ve always wanted to do. I had everything organised – a CAT lab and a team, we’d even employed a consultant cardiologist for Gozo,” Fenech told The Shift when contacted following the latest NAO report on the hospitals’ deal.

VGH had reached out to Fenech, a veteran cardiologist who had set up Mater Dei’s cardiology unit in 1999, following the government’s refusal to renew his contract in September 2015. According to the cardiologist, VGH had originally sought his services to set up cardiac units in St Luke’s and in Gozo.

“Gozo took priority as the plans for St Luke’s were on paper and no real effort was made in the actual internal modifications necessary. At the time, we were told St Luke’s would take at least two years to be developed so that’s why Gozo was the sensible place to start with, even though the original plans were to build a new hospital next to the old one. Another white elephant,” Fenech stated.

Fenech’s move to the concessionaire was turned into a political maelstrom: disgraced former health minister Konrad Mizzi had pounced on the news, claiming that an ex-PN MP had resigned from parliament to endorse foreign direct investment brought in by the government. Fenech had outlined that the government had nothing to do with his decision to join VGH.

Fenech told The Shift he had “absolutely” changed his mind about the deal which he had previously defended. Fenech had even travelled with a government delegation to Montenegro to pitch VGH’s expansion plans overseas. Through international investigations in collaboration with journalists on the ground, The Shift has shown – in 2019 – how VGH tried to sell its scam in Malta to other corrupt nations.

Armin Ernst Montenegro

Albert Fenech (right) sitting next to Steward Health Care CEO Armin Ernst, then CEO of VGH, when trying to sell a similar deal to Montenegro.

“I had specifically asked in the beginning whether there was anything shady about the deal because I didn’t want to be any part of it if there was, and they had assured me there wasn’t,” Fenech said.

“I didn’t stop there – Partners HealthCare, which is an offshoot of Harvard University in the US, had carried out two feasibility reports on VGH. They had found them to be okay so that had reassured me,” he added, further stating that problems started arising when the concessionaires started running out of money.

“In Gozo’s hospital, in particular, they were down to the last week of supplies in the laboratory. That’s when we started smelling something fishy,” Fenech said.

“That was it once Steward took over and they dumped all the plans they had for Gozo. When we had cash flow problems for the laboratory, which was my remit, they dumped it, so all that preparation was for nothing,” he added.

Fenech spared no criticism for Konrad Mizzi’s role in the concession deal which saw St Luke’s Hospital, Karin Grech Rehabilitation Hospital and Gozo’s general hospital handed over to VGH.

“Whenever the name Konrad Mizzi comes up, you smell a rat. His name was involved in those deals because he had sorted it out, which is why I kept on asking the same questions over and over before agreeing to be employed by them. That guy can’t be trusted with anything; they kept on reassuring me, and with Partners saying they were all kosher, I felt confident,” Fenech said.

When asked about what he feels needs to happen with the deal knowing it has been exposed as corrupt, Fenech did not comment directly on what the government should do but instead spoke of his assessment of the Nationalist Party on whose ticket he’d been elected as MP.

“We need a decent opposition. The damned tragedy is that with all the filth that we have been allowing to happen and that we know about given it’s all recorded and documented, very little has been done about it,” Fenech said.

“In spite of all that, people will again still be voting into power the same kind of morally deplete individual. This kind of deal and the information we have about it would have been a gift to any opposition worthy of its name, and yet, they just bicker between themselves,” he added, describing the Party’s overall ability to hold the government to account as “impotent”.

Referring to Opposition Leader Bernard Grech, Fenech said he could not understand how the PN had appointed “an outsider who isn’t an MP as their leader”, adding that he believed this “gives the wrong impression that no one from all the members of parliament of the Party is fit to lead”.

                           
                               
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adriang
adriang
27 days ago

Trust Labour, get screwed Prof. Fenech.

Joseph Micallef
Joseph Micallef
27 days ago
Reply to  adriang

How can you blame a person who was hoodwinked like most of this country. This is not corruption by accident because an opportunity presented itself but corruption by design.

Noel Cassar
Noel Cassar
26 days ago

Because intelligent people, the calibre of Prof Fenech, should not be tricked by an opportunity that arises and renders a very high salary. Forget the pre-election promises, a quick analysis of a few days in power, Joseph Muscat gratuitously donated Caffè Premier owners a hefty sum of money…. That should have been an eye-opener to the esteemed Prof.

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
27 days ago

I expected better judgement from Prof Fenech.

James
James
27 days ago
Reply to  saviour mamo

But therein lies the rub… you have at some stage to accept that if Government ministers etc. reassure you that everything is in order and your own checks confirm those reassurances seem believable, you go with it.

Consummate liars, conmen ,call them what you will, are professionally and ethically bereft of any morals and decency and that is why Malta is in the mess it is.

It starts at the top and they surround themselves with likeminded individuals, as we now all are learning to out literal expense.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
27 days ago

Isn’t it a wee bit too late now? After all we had been repeatedly assured that all was well, that experience, know-how and competence abounded among the VGH bosses and, finally, that the Steward Health Care adventure was the ‘good deal’.

As regards the present PN leadership, it will help one to remember that Dr Grech was elected with a 12 to 5 majority by PN members – and had been under their observation for quite a period before accepting nomination. That, it seems, did not decrease – nay, on the contrary it actually infuriated – adversity against his stewardship to date.

Last edited 27 days ago by Joseph Tabone Adami
Anthony Mercieca
Anthony Mercieca
27 days ago

Intelligent people as Prof. Fenech, have been taken for a ride, used and abused, imagine all the IGHNA that live in flocks

Joseph Micallef
Joseph Micallef
27 days ago

Profs Fenech contact was not renewed in 2015 in preparation so that he would find it easy to take the offer to set up the cardiac unit for VGH and at the same time his acceptance would give credibility to the JM, CM and KS scam. Veritably Profs Fenech ended set up himself by these schemers. All they needed was the face of an honest and credible professor.

Victor Formosa
Victor Formosa
27 days ago

Why did Professor Fenech took so long to talk about VGH Corrupted Deal. He had plenty of time before the Election of 2017. Profs you reap what you sow.

Joseph
Joseph
23 days ago

Hindsight is a wonderful thing as all the people commenting here have found out, it seems. What I wonder is why nobody ever interviews the other medical professionals, equally well known in their field, also employed by this company for their medical (not business) services. Seems Vitals were not alone in wanting to capitalise on a well known face after all… It’s a dangerous line when employees start being taken to task for the misdeeds of their employers. It’s not like employees are involved in the business dealings of the owners.

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