Unions in sharp reaction as MPs disagree on PAC investigation of hospitals contract
Heated PAC meeting sees government, opposition cross swords
Updated Tuesday 7.15am, 5pm
The MAM doctors' union and the UHM this morning reacted sharply after MPs in the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee disagreed on the unions' request for an investigation of the hospitals privatisation contract and referred the issue to the Speaker for a ruling.
"This failure compounds the concerns felt by the workers and patients. It also continues to cast a shadow on those contracts and gives the impression that not all is well," the unions said.
"This is a clear example how, once again, the process where the government listens to the people and is transparent in its actions had been diminished."
The PAC had received a request to review the contracts signed between the government and Vitals Global Healthcare for the privatisation of the Gozo, St Luke’s, and Karen Grech hospitals. The request was submitted by the Medical Association of Malta as well as the Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin last week, but Justice Minister and committee member Owen Bonnici insisted the matter should instead be referred to the Health Committee.
Mr Fenech meanwhile argued that a request made to the committee should not be referred to another, especially when the PAC was perfectly competent to investigate the matter.
Opposition MP Chris Said said it was clear that government members did not want the matter to be reviewed by the committee.
Reacting to the accusation, Dr Bonnici said a request for the health committee to investigate the contracts had been raised by PN MP Claudette Buttigieg, who sits on the health parliamentary committee. The request had been approved last week.
Mr Fenech argued that the PAC was the best place to discuss the matter but Dr Bonnici said the two parties were not seeing eye-to-eye on the matter.
Earlier today, Vitals Global Healthcare said it had been forthcoming with information and willing to speak with all stakeholders and it was therefore “somewhat surprised” by the request.
Despite this, the company said the two unions had turned down its offers for a presentation about its plans.
“VGH will continue to discuss and reply to questions brought forward by interested parties, however at this stage, VGH can’t help but question whether the decision taken by UHM and MAM officials not to engage in dialogue truly represents the interest of the unions’ members or if this decision is led by an ulterior political agenda,” the group had said.
Democratic Party tables motion for debate on contracts
Meanwhile, Democratic Party leader Marlene Farrugia this morning moved a motion for a debate on the contracts. This debate did not exclude the need for the contracts to be scrutinised by the Public Accounts Committee.
The party said that if there was nothing to hide, the contracts would have been made public in full without the insistence of unions, the Nationalist Opposition and Dr Farrugia herself.