Vitals Global Healthcare not allowed to speak to media without government permission
Vitals Global Healthcare cannot speak to the media unless it obtains the government’s written consent, a contract tabled in Parliament shows.
On Wednesday the government published the three agreements reached with Vitals Global Healthcare covering the administration of Karin Grech Rehabilitation Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital and the Gozo General Hospital. VGH was the preferred bidder for the publicprivate partnership.
The concession is for 30 years and includes capital injection of €220 million over the coming two years. The contracts were tabled in the House of Representatives by Health Minister Chris Fearne.
The Health Services Delivery agreement contains a particular section on public relations and publicity, which states that VGH may not “communicate with representatives of the press, TV, radio or other communications media on any matter concerning this agreement or the services” without prior written consent by government.
In addition, “in the event of any enquiries (including those by the media, Parliament or any governmental or official body) being received by the concessionaire (VGH) about this agreement or the services, the concessionaire shall immediately refer the matter to government, and will make no formal or informal response to such enquiries without government’s prior written consent”.
The particular clause states that government’s decision in relation to the aforementioned is final and conclusive.
Through this clause, government has effectively issued a gag order on the release of all possible information from VGH directly to the media. Yesterday, The Malta Independent highlighted a clause in another of the contracts published (the Services Concession agreement).
The clause, regarding confidentiality, mentions commercially sensitive information. Government blanked out many pages in the contract, as well as information relating to timeframes and payments.
The confidentiality clause however does not apply to any disclosure of information by the government to any other relevant public bodies, including Parliament, “should the government consider it necessary to fulfil any legal or political obligations which it may have”.
In addition, a separate clause within the Services Concession agreement reads that the government “retains absolute discretion whether it discloses any information to the House of Representatives, the Auditor General, the Accountant General, the Parliamentary Ombudsman and any other public body, without any need of consulting or obtaining the consent of the concessionaire for this disclosure”.