Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion of Malta coun­ters state­ment made by Vi­tals Global Health­care

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

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.”

Josef Vella

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