The government will demand that Steward Healthcare reimburses funds given to it by the government for investment in Malta's hospitals, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Sunday.
Funds meant for investment which never materialised must be returned, Abela said in a One Radio interview.
Speaking in the wake of a court decision which annulled the government's deal for Vitals and then Steward Healthcare to manage three state-owned hospitals, the prime minister said the government's actions were based on the national interest.
“Over the past years, the government paid Steward money and Steward provided a range of medical services at Karin Grech and the Gozo General Hospital," he said.
“But, in those areas where the government handed funds to Steward for obligations which remained unfulfilled, the government will tell Steward to hand the money back," Abela said.
“We will safeguard the national interest," he said, adding that he would be "firm" with Steward.
Last month, the court declared the hospitals’ privatisation deal, originally signed with Vitals, as “fraudulent” and said the three state hospitals involved - St Luke’s, Karin Grech, and the Gozo hospital must be returned to the government within three months.
PN to hold another Valletta protest
Last week, the Nationalist Party held a protest in Valletta, demanding that the millions provided to Steward be handed back to the people. A motion for the government to seek reimbursement was also filed in parliament and will be debated in parliament on Thursday. At the same time as the debate, the PN will also hold another protest in Valletta, insisting all funds should be recovered.
Abela said that he wants to remain realistic, and not take on the opposition’s attitude of populism and partisanship. “It would be easy to do so , but I don’t want to do that,” he said.
Abela said that as soon as he became Prime Minister in 2020, he turned down Steward's requests to amend the concession agreement and provide more funds. “We said no, and that decision came after we explored all possible scenarios,” he said.
Times of Malta calculated on Sunday that taxpayers have paid at least €355 million net to Vitals and Steward Healthcare to date.
In his address Abela reiterated that should Steward appeal the court judgement, the government would ask the court to hear the case with urgency.