19 JUNE 2002
By Marika Azzopardi
It is unclear whether the Qormi Health Centre will be extended to include a home for the elderly, or whether the home will in fact take over the premises completely. This question was still left unanswered after comments sought by The Malta Financial & Business Times yesterday.
In an article published in last Sundays Kulhadd, Labour MP Charles Buhagiar claimed that the Planning Authority application referred to an old peoples home and this meant the replacement of the present health clinic.
Reacting to this article, Health Minister Louis Deguara said that the application did not refer to the closing down of the centre but to an extension planned on the roof of the existing building.
"No real clarification has been made as yet and this raises various questions," commented Dr Michael Farrugia, Labour Shadow Minister for Health to this newspaper. "One of these queries raised is the fact that the Minister of Health himself had not even been aware of this application. Another question is whether the building presently in existence will support any additional storeys. Additional concern is that health facilities in Qormi could decline or be completely withdrawn, jeopardising space for the services which remain standing," said Dr Farrugia.
The application, was signed by Parliamentary Secretary Dr George Hyzler and entrepreneur Nazzareno Vassallo. It has caused political ripples because a recent similar proposal involving the Health Centre at Mellieha which was categorically turned down.
"At Mellieha Government turned down the health centre proposal saying that it was not its policy to build a health centre together with an old peoples home."
Dr Farrugia pinpoints the discrepancy by which Mellieha had to change plans whilst Qormi is apparently trying to get a green light.
On the other hand Dr George Hyzler is accusing the Opposition of mis-reading the outline development application in such a way as to state that the project would signify the closure of the Qormi Health Centre.
"The application is about the construction of three levels to accommodate a home for the elderly on top of the existing Health Centre."
Dr Hyzler is attempting to advance a concept, driven by the governments policy not to invest directly in infrastructure, but seeking a public private partnership.
"I am not acting in my capacity as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry for Economic Services but as an elected member representing the people of Qormi, who has come up with something constructive and with the interest of the community at heart."
Dr Hyzelr pointed out that he does not have any financial involvement in the project and therefore there is no potential conflict of interest with his position within government.
On his part Dr Hyzler said that the proposal had been discussed with the Minister of Health who is in possession of the underlying Health Centre, the deputy Prime Minister,
the Parliamentary Secretary for the Elderly, the Minister for the Interior and the Parliamentary Secretary in that Ministry who is responsible for lands and Planning issues.