Steward Health Care and the government are set to hold mediation meetings this month in a bid to find an “amicable solution” to the ailing 30-year concession to manage three State hospitals.  

Sources said the meeting would be held “in the coming days”, but no date had been set yet.

The future of the concession agreement has long been in doubt with Steward repeatedly calling on the government to renegotiate the terms of the deal, saying that in its current state, the project was “unbankable”.

Last week, Times of Malta reported how a working group set up by Prime Minister Robert Abela to “take stock” of the hospitals deal recommended that the government tells Steward it would have to pay millions of euros in unpaid taxes, which had previously been subject to waivers.

The recommendation by the group, made up of senior officials from the health and finance ministries as well as law firm Camilleri Preziosi, was made during a meeting with Dr Abela on February 19.  They estimate that Steward owes between €12 and €15 million.

The taxes and social security contributions, sources said, had not been paid because the previous administration had granted Steward “breathing space”, pushing back tax deadlines and giving extensions on a number of project deliverables.

Meanwhile, Steward argues that the government has not kept up its end of the bargain.

The company says it has forked out several millions of euros in costs to settle these matters.

While Steward concedes that it is its own responsibility to resolve these matters, as the concessionaire, it says the government had failed to meet its oversight obligations as set out by the agreement.

The firm has twice written to the government in recent weeks, calling for an urgent meeting to discuss the future of the project and complaining that it was incurring excessive costs because of the government’s failure to act as a watchdog of the previous concessionaire.

Steward took over the concession to run the Gozo, St Luke’s and Karin Grech hospitals in 2017 after the previous concessionaire, Vitals Global Healthcare, had failed to deliver on its contractual commitments, which included investing €200 million in new medical facilities.

The original hospitals deal, signed by former minister Konrad Mizzi, is currently the subject of an in-depth review by the Auditor General.

An inquiry in the courts, sparked by NGO Repubblika, is under way despite objections by Dr Mizzi, former minister Chris Cardona and Finance Minister Edward Scicluna.

And another court case against the government instituted by Opposition leader Adrian Delia, asking for the concession agreement to be rescinded, is pending.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.