FMS plans revealed as Health Ministry denies manipulation of cancer machine procurement

New plans and designs prepared by the Foundation for Medical Services (FMS) just a few days after the closure of a preliminary market consultation on the procurement of a new multi-million euro cancer treatment facility for the Oncology Hospital confirms revelations by The Shift of attempted manipulation by senior Health officials

Internal FMS documents being published exclusively by The Shift show that shortly after the closing of the first phase of the ongoing procurement exercise for the acquisition of a €10-million EU-funded Magnetic Resource Linear Accelerator (MR LINAC) treatment facility, the health authorities suddenly decided to alter their declared procurement specifications so a preferred supplier close to the government could still participate in and possibly win the lucrative tender.

Just days after receiving proposals, the FMS started working on a new bunker to fit the machine of the ‘preferred supplier’.

The detailed designs, intended to be presented to the Planning Authority for a quick development permit, clearly indicate the construction of a new purpose-built bunker to host the still to be acquired MR LINAC machine.

In the original consultation – a pre-tender process – the health authorities had specified that prospective bidders were to fit their machine into an existing bunker already built at the Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre (Samoc) and left empty for the new equipment.

The idea of building a new (fifth) bunker, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of an additional €3 million, was raised when senior health officials realised the machine being offered by the government’s preferred supplier would not fit in the existing empty bunker.

Samoc currently has a total of four bunkers. Three are already in use, and the fourth was earmarked for the new MR LINAC.

The ‘tainted’ process so far

After securing EU funds last November for the acquisition of the latest cancer treatment facility, the Health Ministry issued a preliminary market consultation to test what is available on the market.

The specifications insisted that the new machine had to fit the fourth existing bunker at the Oncology Hospital and had to have the latest technology, a feature known as an ‘automated gating mechanism’ which makes use of MRI and a linear accelerator to locate tumours and treat them with precision.

On the closure of this consultation at the end of December 2021, three bidders had expressed their interest and presented their plans.

While the machines proposed by two separate suppliers were deemed to fit the specifications, the third machine, presented by the government’s preferred supplier – a medical supplies company involved in the tainted public hospitals deal – did not meet the specifications because it is too big for the available bunker, and it does not have the latest features.

The Shift is informed that an urgent meeting was called between senior FMS and Health officials to decide the way forward.

The outcome was that efforts would be made to find a reason to build a new bunker and leave the original empty so that the preferred supplier could be accommodated.

Plans by the FMS for a new bunker were finalised on 21 January.

The Shift is also informed that, following the meeting, participants were warned not to design a tender specifically for a particular supplier because this would cause problems with the European Commission. Officials were also warned that delays to build a new bunker could also result in Malta losing the EU funds earmarked for this life saving facility.

Meanwhile…Health Ministry denies

Replying to questions by The Shift, the Health Ministry denied any efforts by its officials to manipulate the tender to benefit a specific supplier, calling The Shift’s revelations “completely unfounded, misguided and incorrect”.

It said the FMS was only involved in this project “to provide a structural appraisal report of the corridor which leads to the bunker”.

“This report has been concluded and presented to Mater Dei Hospital”, the Ministry said.

According to the Health Ministry, the FMS did not request any changes to the specifications, and said that The Shift’s assertion “that this was done at the request of the FMS, led by Minister Fearne’s chief of staff Carmen Ciantar is a complete lie, unfounded and absolutely defamatory”.

The Shift is informed that, contrary to the Ministry’s declarations, the FMS’s appraisal concerned the entire structure of the fourth bunker, which was found fit and proper to host the new MR LINAC.

It is not yet known why orders were given to proceed with new designs to construct a fifth bunker not envisaged in the December preliminary market consultation, despite the positive assessment by the FMS on the fourth bunker.

The FMS has not yet submitted its plans to the Planning Authority.

The Government also denied that it has a preferred supplier it is trying to accommodate on this multi-million euro tender.

                           
                               
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Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
2 months ago

The facts on the ground support the Shift’s version while the words of the Ministry support the Ministry’s version. So, clearly the Shift must be mistaken.

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