The government will be paying Vitals Global Healthcare, the private operator running the Gozo, St Luke’s and Karen Grech hospital facilities, at least €55 million annually for medical services that are currently offered through the national health service, The Sunday Times of Malta is informed.

Confirming the figure yesterday, Health Minister Chris Fearne said this was the same amount currently paid by the government to run the three hospitals.

“So basically, we will be forking out the same amount of money as we are currently, but getting a better service,” he said.

“The capital investment will be the sole responsibility of the private concessionaire,” he added.

The €55 million a year adds up to more than €1.6 billion over the 30-year concession term.

The new private healthcare managers have also been given the right to additional financial compensation in case the government decides not to extend the service agreement at the end of the 30-year period.

Following the launch of the first service introduced by the new managers at the Gozo hospital – a permanent air ambulance linking it to St Luke’s – Mr Fearne said Malta would have state-of-the art medical facilities with service equivalent to that provided in the United States.

So basically, we will be forking out the same amount of money, but getting a better service

Asked whether the €55 million annual fee to Vitals will increase over the span of the agreement, Mr Fearne conceded that it will, given a formula related to the cost of living agreed in the contracts.

Negotiated by minister Konrad Mizzi, the deal struck with the private consortium has not yet been made public.

However, Mr Fearne yesterday said that while he was only involved in the medical elements of the deal, all the contracts will be published as soon as Parliament reconvenes after the summer recess.

“I gave my word to publish and I will do so,” he said, while specifying that the contracts had been signed by Dr Mizzi.

Sri Ram Tumuluri, who is taking care of the project, said that Vitals are planning to develop it in three phases.

He said that by September of 2017, the campus for Barts medical school should be in place.

“Although all depends on the Planning Authority permits, we envisage that the new Gozo hospital and the development of Karin Grech and St Luke’s will be completed within 24 months of the start of construction.”

Through the deal, all workers in the three hospitals will be kept on the government’s books, but since last June, the management has fallen under VGH.

Mr Tumuluri said the workforce, including medical staff, would have to adapt to change but all would be done within the parameters of the current collective agreements.

VGH is planning to increase the staff complement from 1,600 to 2,500, with the additional personnel to be employed directly by VHG. So far, no agreement has been reached with the trade unions involved, although Mr Fearne said substantial progress has been made with the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses and the General Workers’ Union.

“With regard to the Medical Association of Malta, representing doctors, as well as the UĦM, we are close, but they want to see the contracts first. We have no problem about that and when they see them we can sign,”

Meanwhile, VGH said they had now partnered with Partners Healthcare International, a Boston-based leader in the US healthcare system.

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