Guest Post by Vicki Ann Cremona

If you had to go into a café in Valletta Capital of Culture and ask for a coffee, you would need more than a euro to pay for it. However, I think each and every one of us would have a euro to spare. And had the government offered you and me to buy all the items in a hospital for the princely sum of one euro, we might actually have taken the possibility into consideration, and perhaps earned some money from the deal!

What’s more, had the government offered to rent us a hospital at the same non-risk and debt-free conditions it has offered to a foreign company, we would even have been presented with a choice: we might have chosen the Gozo hospital, or perhaps preferred either Karen Grech Hospital or St. Luke’s!

The problem is that the Government of the Maltese People did not make this offer to any Maltese person, certainly not to those in the more or less average wage-earning category. Moreover, it overlooked the fact that actually, those hospitals already belonged to us: they were built and maintained from our money – from the taxes we pay.

Consequently, Government had no right to sell them, or give them away. The fact of selling all they contained for a symbolic euro is an affront to all the honest people who pay their taxes regularly and on time.

What do we mean when we say that Government has given away our hospitals? In simple language, it seems that if, for example, you are Gozitan, and the (low) quota of free beds made available by the new entity which should be managing the hospital has already been filled – I say ‘should be’ because it seems that this privilege has already been passed on to someone else – your choice of options is not very clear.

Possibly, you may have to pay something out of your own pocket, or we may all have to pay for you from our taxes – probably more than the current expense of keeping you in hospital (these people have to make a profit, after all!). Or else, you may have to come to Malta where places in hospital are already lacking – to the extent that there was once a rumour that St Luke’s hospital was going to be repristined in order to meet the demand.

Whether this is going to happen or not no longer depends on the Maltese people, because our Tagħna Lkoll Government has handed our hospitals over to foreigners, and all that is in them for one euro! What’s more, Government has set these people’s mind at rest that if it were to take back the concession, it would actually pay their debts, or rather, we would pay their debts from our taxes.

All this makes one think: either Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of each and every one of us, has not understood that a euro is not enough to buy a coffee and that the person or persons who have done this deal have made a fool of him and of us, the Maltese people, or he himself is involved in this deal, which would mean that he too, is taking us for a ride. I am certainly not the person who is capable of knowing the truth. The person who usually managed to discover and reveal the truth has recently been killed.

Today the doctors are going out on strike to fight for what really belongs to us – our hospitals. It could be claimed that if they were already feeling wary about what was coming, they should have spoken up before, but as the saying goes: better late than never. It is our duty not only to uphold their claims, but to show them our solidarity.

Let us not forget those horrible years in the seventies when many of our leading doctors as well as those medical students who could (barely) afford it, had to go abroad because of government interference in the hospitals. At the time, you could almost count the number of Maltese doctors in the hospitals practically on your fingers! So what is to happen now if our hospitals no longer belong to us? What will happen to our doctors?

What is going to happen to the Gozo hospital, which services a whole island, and to Karin Grech hospital? St Luke’s hospital has been conceded for almost a hundred years, so quite a few of us will no longer be around when it comes back into Maltese hands!

Another important question is, into what pocket has any change from that symbolic euro gone? A hospital’s equipment can only be sold for a euro on paper (I believe it is a way to avoid taxation) but what interests many of us is: where has the real money that these hospitals are worth gone to? By any chance, has it gone abroad to Panama, or to the Virgin islands?

Are we, Maltese and Gozitans, to be left with nothing, or rather, are we actually to pay from our taxes the extra costs that this sale may probably involve? And will those who are using our money continue to export it, in order to evade the taxes that the rest of us have to pay?

Let us all show our solidarity with our doctors on strike and give them our support. They are fighting to ensure that what is rightfully ours is not squandered or stolen!