The building of the Barts Medical School campus in Gozo is two years behind schedule, the government has admitted.

A Health Ministry spokeswoman said Vitals Global Healthcare, the private consortium given a 30-year concession to run State hospitals and responsible for the construction, would hand over the finished campus during the third quarter of 2018.

Very little work was being done and only a couple of workers were there when the Times of Malta visited the site at the end of last week.

The foundations were still being laid.

A Gozitan building contractor told this newspaper he had been closely monitoring the works since they started last March, adding that “no significant progress has been noticed”.

“In my opinion, it’s obvious there are problems because only a handful of workers have been assigned to the project. This is not on, and something is wrong, although we don’t actually know what is happening,” he remarked.

There are problems because only a handful of workers have been assigned to the project

The Health Ministry was asked about the state of play of the project and why progress appeared to be slow but no replies were forthcoming.

Pointing out that the campus was part of the €220 million investment VGH would make under the 30-year concession, the spokeswoman said the government would not pay anything for the project before VGH delivered the new campus. “As per mutual understanding between VGH, Barts and the government, the campus will (now) be ready by the third quarter of 2018.”

The government refuses to publish the entire agreement with VGH and Barts, but this newspaper has reported that Maltese taxpayers will pay €1.2 million for the new campus to be used by Barts.

According to the agreement, while the government will pay €36 million to VGH, Barts will use the campus free of charge.

Overall, the government will pay VGH over €2 billion for health services at Gozo, Karin Grech and St Luke’s hospitals.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in 2015 the facilities would open in September 2016 and about 60 students were expected. Barts is meant to host 300 in five years.

Asked how many students were expected to start this September, the Health Ministry said about “30 students are expected to start their studies in mid-September”.

Because of the delay, tuition will be offered at a temporary facility at the Gozo Sixth Form in Victoria, which has been converted into a mini medical campus, the works financed by public funds.

Barts has extended admission applications until the end of this month in an attempt to lure more students to join the Gozo courses. It will charge medical students a tuition fee of €35,000 a year.

Prospective students have been offered residential facilities in The Hillrock Residences in Marsalforn at €500 a month for a bedroom in shared apartments.

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com

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