MAM should come round the table and talk with VGH Professor Albert Fenech
‘I wouldn't be involved in anything that seems shady’ Prime Minister should have invited Opposition Leader to see full VGH contract
Professor Albert Fenech, who is both a member of the Medical Association of Malta (MAM), and sits on the Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) Medical Board, has criticised MAM for not having sat down and asked their questions directly to VGH.
Recently, both the UHM and MAM asked the Public Accounts Committee to look into the VGH-government deal covering the operation of the Karin Grech Rehabilitation Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital and the Gozo General Hospital. Speaking with The Malta Independent, Professor Fenech explained that while sitting on the Medical Board at the company, he is employed to setup a Cardiac Unit.
“I find it strange that the union is saying it has lots of questions it wants answered, but were not prepared to meet with VGH to put those questions to them. In fact many meetings, as far as I know, have been asked for, but the MAM has declined.
“As a member, I expect my union to be prepared to face people that they have questions for and ask the questions to them. It is common sense for MAM to come to the table and talk with VGH. If I have a problem with someone, I would first like to face that person and ask the questions I have. If I am unhappy with the answers, then I might ask for someone else to come in and sort it out instead of making all this brouhaha about it.”
Yesterday in an article published by this newsroom, MAM indicated that they would be willing to sit down and talk with VGH, however they will keep insisting on the contracts being fully released and audited.
Professor Fenech is also a former Nationalist Party Member of Parliament. He said that the MAM and VGH have met in the past, before the appointment of VGH CEO Armin Ernst
He stressed that the medical side is being run by experienced people.
I personally would not be involved in anything that seems shady - Albert Fenech
Referring to the Gozo General Hospital, Prof. Fenech said that in all his years of having worked at Mater Dei Hospital he always tried to minimise the inconvenience faced by Gozitans having to come to Malta for treatment.
He adds, “Now they will have a fairly fully independent hospital for which very few would need to come to Malta. They will also have a teaching hospital on site”.
Referring to the allegations and insinuations that have been thrown around regarding VGH, Professor Fenech said: “I personally would not be involved in anything that seems shady, and I have not seen anything at all shady in this project. I met with Partners Healthcare International in the USA and they are very excited about this project”.
He said that VGH and Partners Healthcare International are partners on this project.
He also said that Partners Healthcare International conducted two separate due diligence reports on VGH both of which were positive, “unlike the misrepresentations which have been published,” he said.
“So far I have not seen anything other than what I was told VGH will promise to do, which it has been doing and delivering”.
Turning to the contracts, and the fact that some parts were blanked out, he said: “That, unfortunately, is the government’s responsibility. To me it is completely opaque and stupid not to publish things like that. I can understand that there would be some elements that would be financially sensitive. I’ll tell you what I’d do if I were a decent Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. I’d invite the leader of the opposition and let him have a look at the complete contract. That way, one would not need to publish the whole thing. Just like the Leader of the Opposition is involved in the National Security Council as a responsible person who would not divulge any information which he agrees is in the national interest not to be, then I am perfectly confident that the Opposition Leader who is a responsible person would not have done that. If I was being accused of being dishonest, I would do my utmost to show people that I was not being dishonest by being transparent.
“This could easily have been avoided if this simple and intelligent solution would have been adopted.”
He believes that the whole problem stems from Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, “as anything that those two have touched is assumed to stink to high heaven”.
Positive improvement noted since VGH took over Gozo Hospital - Dr Nadine Delicata
This newsroom also spoke to Gozo General Hospital CEO Dr Nadine Delicata, who is also the Vice President of Operations for VGH Malta. She made clear that she is not a paid up member of the MAM. She said she is in management, and when in management one does not really consider oneself a unionised person.
Dr Delicata was also one of the persons responsible who brought in the national breast cancer screening programme back in 2009.
She said that VGH has invited MAM and other unions to discussions round the table, “unfortunately MAM has not yet accepted”.
“The dialogue with unions is one that is ongoing and that is the healthiest way forward. I believe anything can be resolved around a table, through good will and a bit of give and take from either party. That is my motto with any aspect of management”.
MAM, along with UHM, had said in their letter to the Public Accounts Committee that the unions had asked many questions which remained unanswered, requested information that was not given. They had also indicated their problems with former Health Minister Konrad Mizzi having been involved in the VGH deal.
Asked about the contracts not being fully published, she said: “I think it was government’s decision as to how much to redact from the contract. I am sure there is some commercially sensitive information, but other than that I don’t see why things should not be made public”.
Turning to the raised suspicions around the VGH deal, she was asked, given that she ran the hospital prior to VGH’s involvement, what has changed.
“There is a lot of positive improvement. We have access to expert assistance from Partners Healthcare International who have seen it all and done it all. We have expert groups coming down and covering different areas especially relating to quality and patient safety, people going up to Boston and gaining expertise. This is a breath of fresh air”.
She said that a lot of groundwork is already being done, especially when it comes to investment in the IT systems at the Gozo Hospital. “There is a lot of work being done. Perhaps it is not as visible as people would like it to be but a lot is being done”.
Turning to fewer patients needing to be brought to Malta, she said that “the hospital has outgrown its needs for the local population. So having more beds, services and extensive cover of certain services is good. We do offer some services which have a narrow scope, but expanding them will mean less travel and less hardships for the Gozitan patients”. She said it is hard for Gozitan patients to have to be taken to Malta, where it is hard for family to visit etc.
She mentioned that VGH is targeting JCI accreditation. “These are high standards that need to be achieved and sustained. There really is a lot of ground work going on, even in terms of governance of the hospital, and we have done all this while consulting experts.”