Update 4.19pm - Added UĦM statement

Vitals Global Healthcare, the company which has taken over St Luke's and Gozo hospitals, said today it has been forthcoming with information and willing to speak with all stakeholders and it was therefore 'somewhat surprised' by a request by the MAM doctors' union and the UHM for the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee to investigate the privatisation contract.

The company said the two unions had turned down its offers for a presentation about its plans.

"VGH will continue to discuss and reply to questions brought forward by interested parties, however at this stage, VGH can’t help but question whether the decision taken by UHM and MAM officials not to engage in dialogue truly represents the interest of the unions’ members or if this decision is led by an ulterior political agenda," the group said. 

The Public Accounts Committee will this evening discuss the unions' request to investigate the privatisation deal.

VGH said it welcomes discussion on the hospitals project but was dismayed by the statement issued by the MAM and UHM.

VGH can’t help but question whether the decision taken by UHM and MAM officials not to engage in dialogue truly represents the interest of the unions’ members or if this decision is led by an ulterior political agenda.

"Vitals Global Healthcare understands that large scale projects, such as the one being undertaken by the company, are of national interest and thus, welcomes a constructive, open and ongoing discussion.

"The company reiterates that it has been forthcoming with information and willing to speak with all stakeholders concerned. Whilst presentations on the project and the company have been given to a number of unions, constituted bodies and other entities, MAM and UHM have continuously refused to meet VGH officials to discuss the project," the group said. 

"It is for this reason, that the company finds the letter sent to the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee somewhat surprising. VGH highlights that many of the points listed in the letter are not only incorrect, but irresponsible, and incredulous, and that most major issues have been clarified publicly by the company. Other questions said to have been left unanswered could have easily been addressed had said unions accepted one of many invitations sent by the company."

VGH said it will continue to discuss and reply to questions brought forward by interested parties and it invited the  MAM and UHM to meet and engage in dialogue "so that the scaremongering and dissemination of fabricated information can stop, for the good of the workers of VGH hospitals and the general public at large."

'Criticise the government, not us' - MAM

In a reply, MAM accused the government of "putting the cart before the horse" and rushing into an agreement with VGH before it had reached a formal agreement with affected trade unions. 

The government's decision to redact "tens of pages" from its contract with VGH had led to more questions than answers, MAM said. 

"VGH should direct its criticism at whoever took such a premature decision seriously compromising the future of this project... and compromising the confidence of the medical profession in this project," the medical union said. 

It added that "any serious healthcare provider" should have nothing to fear from being scrutinised by a "credible institution" such as the PAC. 

'Our problem is with the government, not VGH' - UĦM

UĦM were also quick to reply, saying in a statement that it could not hold discussions with a private company when "the problems we are faced with... stem from the contract the government signed on behalf of the Maltese people, and which, for reasons only known to itself, it has kept secret." 

The union accused the government of "mudslinging" every time the union asked questions related to the health sector. 

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