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

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Rachel At­tard and Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

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.”

Al­bert Fenech

Nadine Del­i­cata

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