Updated with Government response.
Steward Health Care Malta (SHCM) has issued a statement saying it “denies and rejects” the Government’s attempt to terminate the concession it has for three hospitals and threatening legal action should the “unlawful” action continue.
It pointed out that the concession had already been terminated from its end on 16th March, and claimed that the Government’s ‘Control Step-in Notice and Termination Notice’, issued on Tuesday, has no legal basis.
That day, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne told Parliament that the Government has stepped in to control operations at the hospitals.
In a statement issued before the Health Minister’s announcement, the Government said that it had notified Steward that it was not accepting what the company said in its termination notice, and that the termination of the concession will be done as per the conditions imposed by the government.
On Thursday (today), Steward responded forcefully.
“Contrary to statements made publicly earlier this week, the Government of Malta is legally not in a position to force its step in and is therefore not currently participating in any additional capacity within the concession,” it said.
“Steward Malta is disappointed that the Government is attempting to engage in a legal ‘tit-for-tat’ for purely political ends, rather than acting responsibly and professionally for the benefit of the people of Malta,” read the statement.
“Steward Malta has encouraged the Government to focus on actions rather than words; instead of making legally unsound statements to the media, Government is called on to engage in productive discussions that lead to a structured and smooth handover that benefits the continued wellbeing of our patients and staff at the hospitals.”
The concessionaire said that the Government’s termination notice “is invalid and of no effect, and, therefore, the Government’s actions to interfere with Steward Malta’s rights are unlawful”.
It said it informed the Government that, should it persist with this behaviour, legal action will be taken, “including seeking the protection of the Malta Police Force and Government will be held liable for any losses, damages or other prejudicial consequences.”
The company concluded: “Steward Malta remains committed to ensuring a smooth and orderly transition. Our concern for a protected working and hospital environment for our patients and staff is paramount, as shown for example by our early payment of staff salaries for the month of March already this week.
“We will continue to manage the operations of the three hospitals that form the concession until a competent and capable party is legally able to step in and manage the wellbeing of staff and patients in our place. We again encourage the Government to partner in this transition in a responsible and constructive manner.”
In a brief statement issued on Thursday afternoon, the Maltese Government said it would be “adhering to the position previously communicated and will maintain a firm legal stance in favour of the interests of the Maltese and Gozitans.”
It said that Steward Malta’s statement “is out of place as the Government has already explained more than once.”
“Once again the Government is reassuring the service to all patients and the employment of all hospital staff.”
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