Robert Abela’s false narrative on public hospitals’ deal continues to deceive

Robert Abela is defending Steward Health Care. But he’s really fighting for his party and his own survival.

Abela accused the Opposition of creating a false narrative. Why? Because they publicised the court judgement that the hospitals’ deal was fraudulent. Because they’re broadcasting the fact that Steward failed their contractual obligations. Because they’ve highlighted the truth that millions paid to the concessionaires weren’t spent on services or infrastructural projects. Because they’ve exposed him for the useless muppet that he is.

That false narrative promised the nation that the hospitals’ concessionaire would bring in €200 million of foreign investment. The concession was awarded to a company, Vitals Global Healthcare, whose share capital amounted to a grand total of €1,200.

When, unsurprisingly, they failed to bring a single cent, Labour funnelled €211.8 million into Vitals’ pockets between 2015 and 2018 without bothering to check what they did with it.

When Labour realised Vitals was broke and ran up debts of over €61 million over and above the €211.8 million, Labour gave the rotten concession to somebody else.

A false narrative is when Vitals suck you dry, and instead of recouping the hundreds of millions, you let them get away.  Labour even rewarded Ram Tumuluri with an “initial payment” of €2.5 million.

Vitals and its investors were paid another €29.35 million by Steward when they took over in the ensuing chaos. Steward paid millions to Accutor AG, which then paid Joseph Muscat €15,000 per month until it went bankrupt.

A false narrative is when Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi conceal the hundreds of millions squandered and pressured Steward to take on the concession without any due diligence whatsoever – to stop the nation from finding out the truth.

A false narrative is when you give Vitals waiver after waiver to let them get more millions without meeting one of their concession milestones. And hide it from the public.

When Steward failed to reach those milestones too, Abela paid them millions more. Another €328.525 million between 2019 and 2021.  That doesn’t include 2022 because the audited accounts haven’t been completed.

That’s a staggering €540.33 million until 2021.

Eight years later, Abela still hasn’t got a clue where all our money’s gone – so he has to ask the Auditor General to check.

Abela claims he doesn’t know what Vitals and Steward have done with half a billion euro. So why was he still giving them more millions? The hospitals’ agreement stipulated that government could take action if the concessionaire didn’t meet its obligations.  But Abela never did.

He’s claiming that he defended the nation’s interests.  That’s what a false narrative is.

What sort of incompetent pays half a billion euro to a private company and publicly admits, eight years later, that he has no clue what he got for that money?

The depressing fact is that it isn’t Abela’s money. It’s ours. We know where that money went, and it certainly didn’t all go into medical services or infrastructure.

It was spent on seven luxury vehicles. It was spent on unnecessary real estate. Over €1.8 million were spent annually on “non-essential administrative staff” who were sacked by Steward to save money.

Almost €45 million were spent on professional and legal costs.  They were spent fighting court injunctions from disgruntled Vitals investors like Ashok Rattehalli.

Millions were spent fighting the $6.5 million dollar claim of another Vitals secret investor, Ambrish Gupta, in the UK courts. We don’t know how much was squandered to settle that case. But all came out of our money.

Another €62.4 million went into other hospital operating expenses. Those certainly weren’t all medical services or infrastructure.

Abela has no shame.  “If there is even one cent of a discrepancy between the payments they received and what they gave back, I will take legal action against Steward”, he declared.

The man is profoundly daft or rabidly dishonest. He’s publicly admitting he doesn’t know where half a billion went. He’s making a declaration of his utter incompetence and criminal negligence. Yet he spent an hour in parliament glorifying Steward.

Steward paid workers’ salaries, he boasted. Amazing. Well done, Steward.

But that’s only partly true. Every three months, an army of doctors is transferred from Mater Dei to Karin Grech and Gozo General Hospital. They weren’t paid by Steward.

Abela tried to elicit gratitude towards Steward. He boasted that 65,000 patients were seen at Gozo’s emergency, 259,000 patients at Gozo’s outpatient department.

The vast majority were seen by the army of doctors sent from Mater Dei, causing staff shortages. Steward did not contribute to those doctors’ salaries.

Steward was given every opportunity to provide evidence of infrastructural projects they completed.  They presented a single-page affidavit and 76 pages of photos.  “This court declares that it is perplexed by the poverty of evidence Steward brought before the court,” Judge Francesco Depasquale said in his ruling.

Yet Abela insists that Steward performed marvellously.  To prove it, he holds up Barts medical school. For that, the taxpayer was paying €1.2 million annually for 30 years – that’s €36 million euro.  In fact, it cost more.

Malta Enterprise spent another million refurbishing the top floor of Gozo’s 6th form for Barts’ use because Vitals hadn’t started building.

If Abela is so convinced that Steward dutifully fulfilled all its obligations and diligently invested the promised €200 million, why didn’t he appeal the court decision?

That court decision gave Abela rope to save himself.  Instead, he’s tied that rope around his political neck and is pulling with all his might.

He had one last chance to protect the nation from Labour’s despicable chicanery. Instead, he pumps false narratives.

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Francis Said
Francis Said
2 months ago

Hear hear.

2 months ago

Poplu misruq, poplu minghajr dinjità

Lawrence Mifsud
Lawrence Mifsud
2 months ago

Our PM wears a different hat for a different occasion.

2 months ago

Every three months, an army of doctors is transferred from Mater Dei to Karin Grech and Gozo General Hospital. They weren’t paid by Steward.” This is true, however Physio and Occupational therapists, as well as junior nurses are also rotated in a similar manner.

Transfers for FMS staff were blocked, and those who tried and failed to get transferred out of that toxic environment and so resigned were not replaced, causing “savings”.

So-called ‘Frailty Wards’ were recently set up. Slow-track beds catered by ‘carers’ with minimal input from Allied Health Professionals, all while charging the government for rehabilitation – and robbing Patients and their families of possible quality of life. High-level profit without the high-level input. Questionable ethics, surely, from Steward senior management.

Edward Mallia
Edward Mallia
2 months ago

This business of rotating doctors and nurses from Mater Dei to Karin Grech and Gozo hospitals has serious if not devastating implications.

  1. How come this matter reached the ears of the public? Surely not all the ”subjects” involved were so cowed as to keep mouths tightly shut.
  2. Such a practice must surely be the result of direct orders from the Minister of Health. So Dr. Chris Fearne was directly and deeply involved in this racket, and all that boasting that he and Dr. Abela were standing firm against the ‘new’ demands of Steward came to was mere hot air.
  3. So Dr. Fearne’s current brush off of news reporters’ questions about his views on the Steward racket — that his job is to deliver a decent health service and not to negotiate and wangle with Steward — is sheer hypocrisy.
  4. Fearne is as deep in the cesspit as his political master. What price our Govt.?

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