The opening of a new medical school in Gozo by Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry has been delayed by a year due to the lack of progress on the building of a new campus.

The medical school is now expected to start receiving its first 60 students this September.  

When the agreement to build the new medical school was signed in 2015, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that it would be up and running by September 2016.

While confirming that Barts’ first students would now be accepted as from September 2017, a health ministry spokeswoman said the new campus would only be available a year later. The Planning Authority is still considering the plans submitted.

“It is programmed that the medical school building at the Gozo General Hospital will be ready in time for the following scholastic year [September 2018],” she added.

No reply was forthcoming when she was asked where Barts would be operating from this September, since the new campus would not be ready until late 2018.

This newspaper asked to see a copy of the signed agreement between the government and Barts, but the request was refused, because, the spokeswoman said, the contract was deemed confidential in terms of business promotion laws.

For some reason, however, it seems that Vitals Global Healthcare are still not in a position to commence works

“Through Malta Enterprise, the government has given millions of euros in incentives to the private company taking over the Gozo Hospital to kick-start the building of the new medical campus. For some reason, however, it seems that Vitals Global Healthcare are still not in a position to commence works,” government sources said.

According to the agreement signed between the government and Barts, the medical campus will form part of the new Gozo Hospital to be developed by Vitals Global Healthcare, the private company given a 30-year concession to run it.

The new Barts campus is expected to cater mainly for international students and will be able to host about 300 trainee doctors by the end of its first five years.

Barts has already issued calls for applications for the first two courses – a one-year foundation course and a five-year bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery. Students are expected to pay €35,000 a year in tuition fees.

Although the agreement involves the granting of millions of euros of public funds in incentives, the government has so far refused to make it public.

Last year, Health Minister Chris Fearne promised Parliament that he would publish the contract by the end of 2016.

However, when Mr Fearne was remin-ded recently by Nationalist Party MP Chris Said of this promise, Mr Fearne said that he could not publish the contract because of confidentiality.

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com

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