The fate of the Gozo General Hospital has been hanging in the balance since the government decided to abdicate its public responsibility to ensure the provision of overnight health services on Gozo and ‘sold it’ to someone else.

The national health service — the obligation of the state to provide excellent health services to everyone for free — has long been the most obvious function we understand as the role of the state in our community.

But that is being redefined as opportunities for privatisation have been found and values other than social inclusion, excellence for all and free service provision have been subjected to considerations such as profit and commercial interest.

In that context a hospital on an island of 30,000 people never had a chance.

The government denied it of course. Over and over again. It continued to deny it when we started to understand who Steward Health Care are and how just 7 years ago they closed down a hospital in Massachusetts that was not making them enough money and turned it into real estate.

The government assured us it would retain the function of recruiting and paying staff as if that was a guarantee of anything except a perverse state of affairs that the government pays salaries of people it does not manage.

And now, in the story The Sunday Times published yesterday, for the first time ever government confesses that the closing down of Gozo General Hospital is no longer unthinkable. And they say it without much shaking of the ground and quaking of the knees.

Even if no one seems to care now, make no mistake: closing down the overnight services of Gozo General would be a cause of great hardship and isolation to the people of Gozo. And if the majority do not care because the majority will never be using those services we have truly lost any sense of community solidarity and responsibility which justified the cost of a national health service for all this time.

To call this the thin end of the wedge betrays a poor understanding of just how wide this end is. It is a proper battering ram.

Wrapping Gozo General Hospital in the deal with St Luke’s and Karin Grech is starting to sound like including Tripoli in the Malta and Gozo deal Charles V gave to the Knights of St John. And if “a solution to the recruitment problem” (or whatever other pretext props up in the meantime) is not found, Gozo General will go the way of Tripoli fairly quickly.

This is making the rounds:

Updated 15:27

Ranier Fsadni called with a pedants alert. The correct metaphor would have been the inclusion of Malta and Gozo with the Tripoli deal Charles V gave to the Knight’s of St John. He explains the Knights had every intention to set up in Tripoli until it fell in 1551. He politely said ‘I imagine you knew this’. Er, no. I do now though.