The new Health Minister, Jo Etienne Abela, has failed to answer questions on why his predecessor, Chris Fearne, and his canvasser Carmen Ciantar – CEO at the Foundation for Medical Services (FMS), issued a €1 million direct order for project management at a new Paola mini-hospital when the project is almost completed.
The direct order was issued through an ‘urgent procedure’ just weeks before Fearne’s removal from the Health Ministry.
Project management services are usually among the first to be procured, meaning the significant direct order is somewhat unusual at this stage of a project.
Asked by The Shift for details on this direct order, the health minister did not reply despite various reminders.
Issued through a negotiated procedure – a form of direct order – the Health Ministry called for “project management and technical supervisory services for the Paola Primary Health Care Southern Regional Hub,” as the long-delayed mini hospital is referred to.
The call was awarded in under a week through an urgent procedure and was given to a joint venture between Salfo and Associates SA and Ado SA, two Greek companies.
It is unknown what work they will do as the tender document was not published.
Meanwhile, the Paola Hub, the EU-funded brainchild of Chris Fearne, right in the middle of his electoral constituency, is still without an opening date, even though it has been promised since 2015.
The project, coordinated by the FMS under Fearne’s former chief of staff, Carmen Ciantar, has been plagued by severe delays and budget overruns.
Last year, Fearne told Parliament that “the hospital of the South” will open during the first quarter of 2024.
However, sources at the FMS told The Shift that no one knows if this new date will be met even though all is being done to open it during Labour’s European Parliament elections campaign.
Previously, Fearne promised the hospital would open in April 2022 and May 2023, yet both deadlines were missed.