Court grants shortening of appeal window for Vitals-Steward hospitals judgement

In an exceptional court procedure, Judge Miriam Hayman granted a government request to shorten the appeal window within which Steward Health Care can contest the landmark Vitals-Steward judgement passed on 24 Friday, which nullified the hospitals deal and declared it “fraudulent”.

The landmark judgement involving the Vitals-Steward hospitals deal will see its appeal window shortened from 30 to 20 days. The shortening was granted on the basis of the “national, state, and public interest”, since the matter concerned the health service.

Until the appeal window closes, the case exists in what state advocate Chris Soler described as “legal limbo”. Since the proceedings are not yet concluded, there may even be “running claims for payment”, on top of what has already been doled out to Steward by the government.

On their part, Steward has opposed the ruling, calling it “outrageous and without merit” and going on to claim that there are “significant flaws in reasoning” throughout. Steward has also claimed the shortening of its appeals period infringes on its rights and confirmed it intends appealing the judgement.

Their legal representative Joseph Camilleri also lambasted the government’s decision to shorten the appeals window, claiming that rather than being done for national interest, this was a political move stemming from the public pressure the government is facing.

He demanded that the full appeals window be afforded to Steward, especially considering the lengthy five-year case. On its part, the court argued that 20 days would be sufficient, given that the ruling’s main points of interest have already been publicly discussed, and that Steward’s replies to the judgement have shown it to have already analysed the ruling.

In June 2021, the appeals window for civil court cases was lengthened from 20 to 30 days. Steward’s shortened appeals window will be the same as that afforded to all cases before this amendment.

Prime Minister Robert Abela first mentioned government plans to shorten Steward’s appeal window in a press statement on the evening of 24 February, the day of the ruling. At that point, Abela also stated that the government was still analysing the judgement.

With his initial comments on the judgement, Abela also sought to absolve himself of any wrongdoing, claiming that he was “not even a member of parliament” when the deals were first signed.

Abela served as legal aid to the office of prime minister Joseph Muscat before his time as a member of parliament. Abela also signed off year after year on renewals of the Vitals-Steward agreement, granting them more and more public funds despite missed deadlines and unfulfilled promises.

On his part, Muscat has downplayed his involvement in the case, claiming that all decisions related to the deals were passed through cabinet, and taken with legal assistance. Several cabinet ministers have washed their hands in response to this, with no one claiming responsibility for the scandal.

The lack of accountability has led both the opposition and civil society group Repubblika to make demands for the shouldering of responsibility. Repubblika has stated that Joseph Muscat and his accomplices should be behind bars, having requested an inquiry into Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona and Edward Scicluna’s involvement back in 2019.


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Stories

Shooting the messenger and ignoring the message – Editorial
The Malta Police Force deserves a round of applause
Malta tried, but MEPs warn about using RRF funds to replace state expenditure
MEPs expressed concern over “first indications” that “some EU

Our Awards and Media Partners

Award logo Award logo Award logo