Medical firms hoping to win supply contracts with the private company tasked with running three public hospitals are being asked to submit their bids to a competitor.

A number of medical suppliers told this paper they had been put in a very awkward position, after Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) informed them that all procurement would be run through Technoline, which is a competing firm in the medical supplies industry.

The Sunday Times of Malta asked VGH if it had some sort of financial interest in Technoline, but instead of answering the question, the company issued a press release announcing the “exclusive contract” under which Technoline would manage the supply chain processes for VGH.

Documents at the Malta Financial Services Authority show that Technoline’s shares were recently bought out by Gateway Solution, of which Ivan Vassallo is the sole shareholder and director.

Mr Vassallo is listed as the director of three companies set up after 2015, including a company called MMXVI, which lists Brian Tonna’s BT International as one of its shareholders.

One medical supplier complained that Technoline would now receive all the confidential information about contract bids. “It is a clear conflict of interest,” the supplier, who preferred not to be named, told this paper.

A number of medical suppliers have raised their concerns with VGH, with some even contemplating not submitting any supply bids via Technoline.

“At the end of the day, they are our competitors. We do not understand the extent of their relationship with VGH. It is unfair that we are expected to submit our contract bids to a rival,” another leading medical supplier told this newspaper.

The Sunday Times of Malta asked VGH why it did not have its own procurement arm and what safeguards were being put in place to ensure Technoline would not use the information submitted to undercut their bids.

No reply was received to those questions, nor to another asking if Technoline would be allowed to submit their own bids for contracts with VGH.

In its press release, VGH said the contract with Technoline covered the management of all processes in the supply chain, including consultancy, pre-purchase stakeholder engagement, purchasing and asset management, in-house maintenance and servicing.

VGH confirmed that Technoline, through a specifically set-up VGH business unit, would “negotiate and interface” with all vendors.

It said Technoline had already recruited a team of professionals to enhance its existing staff and resources, and would continue to bolster its capacity in the near future.

VGH said the agreement would see its integration with Technoline in a synergy aimed at introducing the best possible technology solutions and platforms, in VGH’s mission to achieve value-based healthcare across all its present and future healthcare operations.

The agreement would seek to assist in making quality care accessible to all patients, wherever VGH was present, the company said.

jacob.borg@timesofmalta.com