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Health Minister refuses to list payments to Vitals

Gozo General Hospital

Gozo General Hospital

Health Minister Chris Fearne is refusing to list payments made to Vitals Global Healthcare for the running of three public hospitals.

The Times of Malta is told the government has already passed over €20 million to Vitals for the running of the Gozo, Karin Grech and St Luke’s hospitals. But repeated requests both in Parliament and by this newspaper for details on how public funds are being spent have so far fallen on deaf ears.

Three weeks ago, Mr Fearne told this newspaper the government was about to give Vitals a global sum for the services given in 2016. But no figures were mentioned.

Questions sent this week by the Times of Malta for information on the monthly payments made to Vitals remained unanswered.

No details are emerging from Parliament either. Written questions tabled by shadow Gozo minister Chris Said about specific payments made to Vitals also got nowhere.

The payments being made compare well to the recurrent expenditure on the same hospitals before

“The payments being made compare well to the recurrent expenditure on the same hospitals before,” was the stock reply given.

Dr Said insisted for an answer but Mr Fearne would not give more details.

The Sunday Times of Malta reported senior medical officers at both Karin Grech and Gozo hospitals saying that, despite millions of euros being paid to Vitals, nothing had changed. Both the Medical Association of Malta and the Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin are demanding a review by the Public Accounts Committee and by the Auditor General of the contracts signed by Vitals and former health minster Konrad Mizzi.

The government is arguing that the issue should be addressed by the Health Parliamentary Committee.

In reaction, both the doctors’ union and the UĦM said the government’s refusal of a proper review raised their suspicion that there was something untoward in the deal.

Vitals was given a 30-year concession to manage the three public hospitals on behalf of the government. They will be getting some €55 million a year from public funds and are expected to invest about €220 million.

The deal was concluded after a call for proposals. It later emerged that the government was already discussing with Vitals before the call was made.

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