Updated | Steward Health Care announces VGH takeover

The US healthcare providers said it had finalised a public-private partnership to ‘deliver exceptional healthcare to the people of Malta’

Steward Health Care has announced its takeover of Vitals Global Healthcare and  now owns the concession to operate  three of  Malta's  public hospitals
Steward Health Care has announced its takeover of Vitals Global Healthcare and now owns the concession to operate three of Malta's public hospitals

Steward Heath Care has officially taken over the running of St Luke’s, Gozo General and Karin Grech hospitals after becoming the major shareholders in Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) – the company which originally signed a public-private partnership agreement with the government.

The business transfer from VGH to Steward was announced on 20 December but was formalised yesterday, MFSA records show. Michael Callum and Armin Ernst, have replaced Ram Tumuluri and Mark Pawley as directors of VGH. Ernst was previously VGH's CEO. 

According to documents uploaded to the MFSA’s Registry of Companies website yesterday, Steward Health Care has purchased a majority of the shares in Vitals Global Healthcare limited, with Ashok Rattehalli having been transferred a minority stake in the company.

The transfer  of shares is dated 16  February, the day after Ratahalli withdrew a second injunction against VGH
The transfer of shares is dated 16 February, the day after Ratahalli withdrew a second injunction against VGH

Prior to the transfer, Ratthalli – an investor in VGH - had twice filed a court injunction, requesting the courts to block the transfer of the business to Steward Health Care, over fears that his interests as a shareholder in VGH would not be protected.  

“Steward Heath Care System LLC today finalised a public-private partnership to deliver exceptional health care to the people of Malta,” the company said in an early morning statement. “Steward, which is physician-led, and the largest private hospital operator in the United States, is now the government of Malta’s health care partner, and will run a number of public medical facilities in the country.”

The VGH deal had been criticised by a number of stakeholders in the local healthcare sector over its lack of previous experience in the field, as well as the fact that its ownership was concealed behind an offshore company.

Only yesterday, Opposition leader Adrian Delia filed a case asking the courts to strike down the agreement with VGH on the basis of the company not having stuck to its obligations including, 50 additional beds allocated at Karin Grech Hospital, 80 rehabilitation beds in St. Luke’s Hospital and a functioning medical school in Gozo.  

In its statement, the company said that the public-private partnership “resulted from Steward’s purchase of Vitals Global Healthcare’s concessions to run facilities entrusted to it”.

“Steward will also construct and run campus facilities for Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, and offer Steward hospitals as teaching facilities for medical students,” it said, adding that it would be “investing in these facilities so that they stay and thrive in Malta”.

“Steward Health Care shares our same vision for the future of healthcare in Malta,” Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was quoted as saying. “Our resolve to upgrade Malta and Gozo’s healthcare services to world-class levels has been given a further boost through this partnership. With its impressive track-record, Steward is the ideal partner to realise such a critical infrastructural upgrade of our hospitals while offering the best medical services to patients.”

The US healthcare operator said it had built some of the most innovative health care technologies in the United States which help to "predict diseases and illnesses before they spread, reduce excess time a patient spends in the hospital, and leverage analytics to help administrators plan appropriate staffing levels".

Steward said it also utilized state-of-the-art electronic medical records (EMR) and electronic intensive care units (eICU), systems it said it intended to use in Malta. 

Government statement

In a statement the government said that Steward Health Care System had finalized an agreement to take over the concession to operate three medical facilities in Malta and Gozo.

“The Government welcomes this development and remains fully committed to ensure that all obligations as set out in the concession agreement are adhered to, which ensures the completion of world-class facilities for the Gozo General Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital and Karin Grech Hospital as well as setting up the renowned Barts Medical School in Malta,” read the statement.

“This agreement with the physician-led and largest private healthcare operator in the US, Steward, confirms government’s plans to consolidate and upgrade the free provision of medical care to all patients, while safeguarding the rights of medical healthcare professionals in Malta and Gozo.”

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