Partit Demokratiku notes that in the two days since Parliament has recessed for Christmas holidays, government has conceded in part or in full two essential service agreements; that of Electrogas and Vitals. It seems that it has become a habit that when Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat wants to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and public attention he does so when it is extremely expedient for him.
The Vitals ordeal stinks to high heaven, not only since the rightful owners are unknown, but also as it seems that VGH never had the intention to honour such a contract. Moreover, government’s lack of accountability has accentuated this opinion.
Partit Demokratiku is satisfied that the health services concession contract awarded to Vitals Healthcare (VGH) is now in the hands of a recognised healthcare group with a track record in the field, something Vitals could never boast.
PD notes that it is good practice that concessions are not sold on by the company holding a concession. It can transfer a small shareholding of the work of that concession up to a qualified (proportionate) amount, e.g. 10%. Deputy prime Minister Chris Fearne has stated that in the case a complete transfer is made in the first five years of the concession, the government is authorised to give the green light. This is not on. It should be the health regulator the gives its approval in such an eventuality at all times, and not only in the first five years.
PD proposes that such contracts should always go through Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.
PD poses the following questions:
Why was the contract awarded in the fist place to Vitals if, as it seems they are unable and do not have the capacity to fulfil the terms of that contract, contrary to what the government announced at the time of signing it?
Was there a need for a health services concession at a such a cost to the Maltese public when it is common knowledge that the prices the government is paying and accepted by the then Health Minister Konrad Mizzi are higher than it would have cost it had it been the main operator and does not cover certain costs like wages, some operations etc?
VGH had promised to invest 200M. How much has been invested up to this day?
How much money has been spent by Government in the last two years and how much of the supposed investment by Vitals been recycled government funds?
Vitals was unable to deliver on the terms of the contract. A case in point being Barts Medical School which needs to be hosted in a government sixth form building as the Gozo general Hospital could not accommodate it. If this is the case, is the contract null and void?
What punitive terms were there in the contract in case of breach of its terms?
If, indeed Vitals are in breach of that contract, should they have been in a position to sell on the Health services agreement?
Would it not have been better for the government to rescind that contract and renegotiate more advantageous terms than the government currently abides by; terms which time and again the current Health Minister has shown he is not comfortable with?
Vitals would never have sold on the contract to another private healthcare provider unless there was a profit in it for them, and a profit in it for Steward Healthcare. Does this again indicate that our public healthcare delivery system and the Maltese Public are not being given value for money?
What is the profit that Vitals made?
Was one of the reasons that the original contract presented to parliament was in a heavily redacted form because it was known that there was a possibility for it to be sold on?
In order for these questions and many others to be answered we urge the government to publish the health services contract in its entirety as soon as possible. Incomplete information leads to rumour and doubt. The history of this saga does not diminish it.