Since opening its first residential home for the elderly in 1993, CareMalta has expanded its accommodation options for the most vulnerable. Today, the company is led by James Sciriha, who is determined to uphold its founding values by reaching out and providing help to those who need it the most.

“When you enter the caring industry, you do so because you want to contribute to providing a more dignified service to the vulnerable. This industry is not about the money; it’s about the person at the heart of your work and you need to keep them at the centre of every decision you take.” This philosophy is what drives James Sciriha, the CEO of CareMalta Group – a company that forms part of the Vassallo Group of Companies and provides nursing as well as residential care, together with independent living options.

James sees his role as “multifaceted, encompassing a wide range of responsibilities. I am the person accountable for the overall success of the company. So, sometimes I have to be a listener, sometimes a preacher, sometimes a learner or a teacher. My position is a mix of many different responsibilities,” he explains.

He takes these obligations seriously, for, at CareMalta Group, “we can have a positive impact on those who need it most. We can improve their quality of life.” The business operates within the service sector, which, he asserts, is all about “creating a connection”, both with the most vulnerable, as well as with the employees: “we see ourselves as not only helping those we host, but also giving opportunities to our staff.”

James’ first steps in his career trajectory might not have indicated the direction he was ultimately going to take, but they were integral to forming his professional outlook. “I am an accountant by profession, so I always feel I need to be accountable, have integrity and champion honesty. This is the basis of everything,” he says.

This outlook, together with his resilient approach, has permeated throughout much of the CEO’s working life. He worked for one of the Big Four auditing firms after graduating from university. Then, in 2010, he was offered a position as the Financial Controller of CareMalta Group. “I spent six years in that role and, in 2016, was appointed the Director of Finance. After a number of years, I took on the operational side of the business and assisted our former CEO in her role.” In February 2022, he was appointed to the top position.

James is a fierce champion of the company’s ethos which is, not surprisingly, founded on the following six key values: quality, integrity, safety, development, dignity, and wellbeing. “Everything revolves around these values, and they are non-negotiable. I strongly believe in a sense of professionalism and respect – and all of us who work at CareMalta Group adhere to these principles. They have helped make us who we are today,” he asserts.

The company was launched by the Vassallo Group 30 years ago, with the introduction of Casa Arkati in Mosta in 1993, providing the island with the first private home for the elderly. “It was a huge risk for the company since, of course, such residential options were not deemed to be very profitable. However, the group aimed to provide an alternative to the types of accommodation available at the time for older persons, which were predominantly public or church-run. The home was established in Mosta, the hometown of group founder Nazzareno Vassallo, as he sought to give back to his community,” James attests.

Over the years, the business entered into various publicprivate partnership agreements with the Government of Malta, in order to offer up more spaces to those who couldn’t necessarily afford the private home’s rates. “It turned out that the private options we were offering for older persons provided a better service than those that were publicly run. So, we entered into these agreements to run homes, on behalf of the Government. In the end, it was a win-win-win for all involved: for us, in the private sector, as we could grow; for the Government which was looking to provide a better service at a more reasonable price; and for older persons who were able to enjoy the improved levels of care. Today, the Government does not build its own nursing facilities, but it buys beds in private homes – this is how the entire sector operates.”

CareMalta quickly expanded over the years, with the opening of the Żejtun Home (1994), Villa Messina, in Rabat (1995), the Bormla Home (1999), Casa Marija, formerly the Prince of Wales, in Sliema (1999), Dar il-Madonna talMellieħa (2008), Zammit Clapp Hospital Residential Home in St Julian’s (2010), Roseville in Attard (2012), and Casa San Paolo in Buġibba (2015). Then, in 2016, CareMalta Group opened Casa Apap Bologna, the first specialised home for persons with disabilities, under the management of a new stream of services called HILA.

“Until 2015, our focus was to care for older persons. But we realised many others were starting to provide a similar service, and we wanted to expand our offering. Our Business Development Manager at the time, Janet Silvio, set out to explore different sectors and, after several meetings with NGOs, we decided to open HILA. Since then, we’ve increased our role in this area: we have entered into a partnership with ALS Malta, and we operate Dar Bjorn and Dar Bjorn 2. Most recently, we ventured into the mental health sector with Casal Nuovo, which accommodates approximately 50 people who have struggles in this area.”

However, there have been some challenges on this incredible, upward journey. Last year, for instance, CareMalta’s Cospicua home had to be closed down. “This was not an easy decision, as we lost cherished members of our staff, which deeply affected me. It also heightened my awareness of the importance of mental health,” shares James, who copes with the stresses of his job by running.

Meanwhile, though, CareMalta has also started to take its services to Gozo with a new nursing home – Dar San Gużepp in Għajnsielem, which is due to open this year. “There’s a disparity between what is offered in Gozo and what is available in Malta, so we wanted to fill this gap,” explains James. Astra, another specialised home operated under HILA, will also open in Gozo later in 2024.

Moreover, Dar Sant’Anna, in Senglea, is in the works, and will be CareMalta Group’s intervention within alternative care for children. “Similar to an institute or orphanage, we will be hosting those who are under care orders, or who have difficulties. It’s an extremely delicate sector, and we’re very conscious of our responsibility.” Indeed, CareMalta Group’s current Business Development Manager, Dr Charlene Vella Vassallo – who has specialised in human rights, having even earned a Master of Laws in Human Rights of the Child from the University of London in 2018 – will be overseeing the management of Dar Sant’Anna.

Looking ahead to the next few months, CareMalta Group will, therefore, be consolidating its HILA homes and will “strive to provide an even higher quality of service.” It will also be looking at taking the company overseas. “We have already identified another European company we’re investing in; we’ve done some groundwork, so we hope to finalise everything this year.”

By the end of the year, James would like to see CareMalta Group “stronger and healthier” than ever before. “I don’t think this is all going to be easy, but, together with my team, I am determined and motivated,” he says. “I know that my decisions and my team’s decisions can improve quality of life for others. Every person has their own story – and I love to sit down with our residents and clients, and converse with them. Sometimes you see pain behind the smile. But we know we can influence others positively through our work,” he says, concluding.

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2024 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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