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Partners agrees to help build hospitals in Malta, Ivory Coast

Move to boost its growth in Europe

In Malta, Partners has signed an agreement with Vitals Global Healthcare, the subsidiary of an investment company chosen by Malta to redevelop its hospitals.
In Malta, Partners has signed an agreement with Vitals Global Healthcare, the subsidiary of an investment company chosen by Malta to redevelop its hospitals.(GIANNI CIPRIANO/NEW YORK TIMES)

Partners HealthCare has agreed to help build hospitals in Malta and Ivory Coast, the latest steps by the state's largest health system to expand internationally.

Partners will help upgrade two hospitals and help build a third hospital in Malta, a Mediterranean nation off the coast of Italy with a population of 420,000.

The goal of the project is to improve care and access to medical services, from specialized hospital care to primary care, Dr. Gilbert H. Mudge, chief executive of Partners' international division, said Tuesday in an interview.

Though Malta is small, it may serve as a test case for Partners' future growth in Europe. Many European countries, including Malta, have government-funded health care systems but are seeking private partners to help them stay financially sustainable, Mudge said. "We actually think the future of health care in many nationalized health care systems is probably going to be in public-private partnerships."

Partners, the parent company of Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's hospitals, has a network of 10 hospitals and 6,000 doctors. For several years, the health system has pursued international business projects, including training health care workers in other countries, developing clinical programs, and advising in the construction of new hospitals. It is currently working on projects in China, India, and Saudia Arabia.

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Partners and its big teaching hospitals have recently accelerated efforts to expand abroad as the health system faces more scrutiny over its plans to grow in Massachusetts. For Partners and other major US hospital systems, international projects are a way to earn new revenue, raise their global profile, and pick up patients from other markets.

In Malta, Partners has signed an agreement with Vitals Global Healthcare, the subsidiary of a Singapore-based investment company chosen by the government of Malta to redevelop its hospitals. Also participating is a London-based medical school, called Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry , which will open a medical school campus in Malta as part of the deal.

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Teams of doctors and other Partners employees will make trips to Malta, beginning next month, to start work on the multiyear project.

"We actually believe this relationship may open us up to very significant opportunities in Europe," Mudge said.

Birds fly over the skyline of Valletta, Malta. Teams of doctors and other Partners employees will make trips to Malta, beginning next month.
Birds fly over the skyline of Valletta, Malta. Teams of doctors and other Partners employees will make trips to Malta, beginning next month.(GIANNI CIPRIANO/THE NEW YORK TIMES)

In Ivory Coast, Partners has signed a deal with Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny to co-develop a teaching hospital, the first of its kind in the country, Partners officials said.

While Partners doctors have traveled to African countries for various health care projects in the past, this is the health system's first business deal in West Africa.

The hospital will be located in Abidjan, a city of more than 4 million.

Partners will develop programs and train employees to work at the new hospital, including programs focused on trauma and HIV, two major health concerns in the city, Mudge said.

Parnters did not disclose the total revenue the projects are expected to generate. In the past, international projects have brought in $10 million to $20 million of revenue per year at Partners, a small slice of its $11 billion in annual revenue.


Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.