Medical Association of Malta counters statement made by Vitals Global Healthcare
Medical Association of Malta President Gordon Caruana Dingli has said that Vitals Global Healthcare’s statement, which said that MAM and the UĦM had continuously refused to meet VGH officials to discuss the projects, is not correct.
The MAM President told this newsroom: “We deal with government and not VGH as our members are employed by government. We held several meetings with former Health Minister Konrad Mizzi, and of course meetings with Minister Fearne since he became minister, and at these meetings we met VGH Director Ram Tumuluri several times, and have also met Mark Pawley (the man VGH says is the ultimate beneficial owner of the group). The only time we didn’t attend a meeting was after the Panama Papers scandal came out. When we were approached by a VGH member, we said we would rather postpone that meeting to a time when the contracts are published and audited.”
The MAM President highlighted that the contract between Vitals Global Healthcare and the government of Malta covering
the operation of Karin Grech Rehabilitation Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital and the Gozo General Hospital, has yet to be issued in whole, due to the number of pages blanked out.
Recently, MAM and the UĦM sent a letter to the Public Accounts Committee, requesting that it investigates the deals. In response, VGH released a statement arguing that many of the points listed in the letter are “not only incorrect, but irresponsible, and incredulous, and that most major issues have been clarified publicly by the company. Other questions said to have been left unanswered could have easily been addressed”.
Asked whether the MAM is willing to accept the VGH’s offer to meet with the union, Dr Caruana Dingli also said that the press release accuses the union of many things, and he is not sure if VGH are the ones who wrote it. “But yes, if they want to meet us we will meet them, but we will keep insisting on the contracts being fully released and audited.”
He reiterated the union’s disappointment that its request for the Public Accounts Committee to look into the contracts has not yet been accepted. Asked whether he would be ok with the Health Committee investigating, rather than the PAC, he said that the request was made to the PAC as they deal with financial issues. “This isn’t shopping around, If I go to one bank they don’t tell me to take my business to another. We submitted our request to the PAC as we believe they are the best qualified committee to deal with financial issues.”
The MAM President said that they met with government in the past regarding the agreement regulating the conditions of work for doctors who work in the privatised hospitals, and were in fact quite close to an agreement.
Asked whether, given there is no agreement yet, what problems could arise, he said it’s all up in the air and nobody knows what is going on. “Our doctors are still being paid by government, and government, as far as we know, is supplying medicines to private hospitals”.
This newsroom also contacted UĦM – Voice of the Workers Chief Executive Josef Vella, who said that they will not meet with VGH out of principle.
Mr Vella said that UĦM never went into whether VGH sent him a formal invitation or not, but said that he once received a phone call requesting to meet, adding that the UĦM does not have an operational dispute at the moment with the company. “What we are challenging is what government has done at a national level. What we said in our press release yesterday was that VGH is trying to defend government, and are slinging mud at us saying we are politically motivated, when the questions we are posing are of national interest.”
He said that government eventually published the contracts the union wanted to see, yet “after months of struggle and with 75 missing pages. What am I supposed to tell the workers, that the contents of those pages are futile and start negotiating with Vitals? Government wants us to sit down with Vitals, as the moment we sit down with them, we would be accepting them as management, we would be accepting everything that took place at a macro-national level and step towards the next task of negotiating on a micro level. What we have is not a dispute at an organisational level, but a national interest issue. That is why we sent the letter to the Public Accounts Committee,” he explained.
“We still persist that our questions are addressed by government before considering our next steps,” he said.
Questions were also sent to VGH regarding the situation. Asked whether VGH has any issues going before the PAC, a representative said: “VGH welcomes an open and ongoing discussion at all levels including parliament and has no objection to a discussion taking place in any forum.”