That raises a number of questions the government should really have answered before we found out about this.
Firstly, when are the government’s calculations telling them to expect the spread of this disease to peak in this country? Where do we stand on the upward curve observed in countries that are ahead of us in this crisis? Is the peak expected to be beyond 8 weeks from now or between now and the deadline for the erection of a new emergency hospital?
Secondly, what did Minister Chris Fearne mean on Sunday when he said all national resources would be deployed for the purpose of providing care to COVID-19 patients who need hospitalisation? Specifically do those national resources include hospitals operated by Steward Health Care? Are St Luke’s, Karin Grech and Gozo General hospitals being readied for COVID-19 patients? If yes, what will be their capacity and when will they be ready to receive patients?
Thirdly, if Steward’s hospitals are not being deployed against COVID-19 why are they deemed unsuitable for this purpose? Why is a new pre-fabricated hospital a better, quicker and more reasonably cost-effective idea in the context of the present emergency?
We have to rely on two statements Minister Chris Fearne has made: the first being that he considers every national medical asset, no matter its owner, as being at his disposal in this battle that trumps all considerations. What that should mean is that if there’s a hospital bed that is suitable to treat a COVID-19 patient, Chris Fearne will ask for it and if he’s not given it, he’ll take it.
His second statement is that he is getting all the co-operation he needs from Steward Health Care. What co-operation has he asked for? In what way have the resources under their control been or are expected to be useful in this.
One hopes it is clear for the government that public anger at its decision to dispose of three public hospitals continues to simmer. The government would do well to remember that that anger is aggravated by the reasonable suspicion of corruption given the direct involvement of Konrad Mizzi and Joseph Muscat in that imbroglio.
But there is no telling where that anger will go if that misguided privatisation and that suspected corruption results in unnecessary pressure on what is left of our public health service and in bringing our doctors, nurses and medical staff nearer their limits and in forcing choices about life and death that would not have been necessary had the government retained the control of those three hospitals.