No progress appears to have been made in infrastructural works at three privatised hospitals since 2017, with some development permits having now expired and others close to expiry, a court was told on Wednesday.

Documentation concerning applications for major works at St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo hospitals was presented in the case filed by former PN leader Adrian Delia, who is challenging the controversial 2015 privatisation deal.

Delia is arguing that the original concessionaire, Vitals Global Healthcare, and its successor Steward Healthcare failed to fulfil contractual obligations of that deal and since important milestones had been missed, the hospitals were to be “given back to the people.”

When the case resumed on Wednesday, a Planning Authority representative presented additional documentation, including commencement notices which, it was explained, did not mean that works had actually started.

Two such notices had been separately filed by operators in the excavation sector, one from Malta and the other in Gozo. Delia asked whether any other such notices had been sent in by constructors.

The witness confirmed that there were none.

She also explained that full development permits were valid for five years, running from the date of the permit, while a DNO (development notification order) was valid for one year. One such DNO expired in January 2019 and a new application would have to be filed for works to be able to go ahead, the witness said.

Another DNO had expired in February 2021.

Asked about the procedure in the follow-up to such applications, the witness explained that once a permit was issued, the Authority would inform the area enforcement officer to effect on-site monitoring.

In spite of permits for excavation works having been issued, there was no excavation except “at the Gozo hospital” and no building works, Delia’s lawyer, Edward Debono observed, adding that if there was disagreement on this, there should be an inspection at all three hospitals.

State Advocate Chris Soler said that works had taken place at Barts Medical School.

The court, presided over by Mr Justice Francesco Depasquale, granted the respondents three weeks within which to undertake necessary verification of works and file a note accordingly.

The court will then inform the parties as to whether the requested onsite inspection should be made.

The case continues in September.

Lawyers Andrew Cauchi, Stefano Filletti, Maronia Magri and Joseph Camilleri also assisted the respondents.

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