UK Prime Minister Theresa May has assured the public she would exclude the National Health Service from any free trade agreement with the United States.
A UK The Times story (you’ll need a subscription to read it in full) reports on questions from Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable to the prime minister demanding she “confirms whether she had made it ‘absolutely clear’ that American companies would not be allowed to tender for NHS (National Health Service) services under any new trade deal in her recent discussions with the president (of the United States)”.
After some hesitation, 10, Downing Street, clarified “that the NHS was ‘not for sale’ and insisted that the government would ‘continue to ensure that rigorous protections for the NHS are included in all trade agreements it is part of”.
It’s not just the LibDems that are concerned that Brexit, followed by a free trade agreement with the US, could open British health services to American ownership. “A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said it was a ‘matter of great concern’ that Mrs May had refused to rule out giving ‘predatory’ US corporations access to public sector contracts. ‘I think it’s clear that the failure to rule out the kind of predatory corporate access to our NHS means that’s part of the deal that is being considered by our PM and considered by this government,’ he said”.
Put this in context of what is happening in Malta. It is not just that Malta’s health service has been opened to “predatory US corporations” tendering for service contracts. We have a situation here were predatory US corporations are being given the hospitals lock, stock and barrel. They will be owning the things. They will be owning everything that is inside. They will do with as they please for the next 100 years.
And they did not have to tender for it. They did not have to explain their intentions, present their credentials, make an effort to be liked. They bought our hospitals off a failed and bankrupt company owned by people we do not know who got the hospitals having been picked directly by the government without any meaningful competition.
I’ve read some comments extolling the virtues of privatisations and assuring everyone privatising St Luke’s will be as a success like privatising the Freeport or Telemalta. If government still owned a printing house or a harbour or a jam jar factory, I’m all for privatisation. But this is hospitals we are talking about here. Can you really not see the difference?
Do you think a for-profit American health provider is acquiring Gozo General Hospital because it wants to deal with a community of 30,000 people and their ailments? The place will be converted to a health tourism destination, which is all well and good. But why don’t they build their own private hospital elsewhere in Gozo and invest in their own assets to generate the profits they are after? Why do they get the only hospital in Gozo providing essential public health services to the community?
Easy, because it’s there and we have no government to protect the health needs of our people. On the contrary it is abdicating its responsibilities, opening the doors to business interests the rest of Europe and even post-Brexit UK categorically rule out of public health.
And then Glen Bedingfield said our doctors went on strike yesterday for problems of their own making.