HEALTH services in Papua New Guinea are suffering because the Government is not releasing funds promptly.
Chairman of Catholic Church Health Services, Archbishop Stephen Reichert, expressed his disappointment that the release of salary and operational funds to the churches is frequently delayed.
“We welcome the government’s commitment to health care in the latest budget.
“However, we urge the government to release funds on time to churches who run health facilities in partnership with the government Department of Health, Archbishop Reichert said.
“Over the past 18 months there have been frequent delays in the release of salary and operational grants for church-run facilities.
“As a result, many church health workers are not paid for up to two or three months at a time. Surely this injustice and violation of the rights of church health care providers is avoidable, “ he said.
“The constant delay in funding is unacceptable to the Church and disrespectful to the Church health workers who provide lifesaving services.”
Archbishop Reichert said the churches provide close to 50% of all health care in Papua New Guinea.
In remote and rural areas, where the majority of the people live, that figure increases to around 80%.
“I often hear that the government seeks to work in closer partnership with churches. Catholic Church Health Services welcomes this,” he said.
“By providing health services, the churches actually save the government money, but more importantly, they provide health services to people in areas the government cannot reach.
“On the government’s part a clear expression of partnership is to pay the churches on time, every time and according to budget so that the churches can pay their workers on time.
“The frequent late release of salary and operational grants is puzzling. Doesn’t government care about church health care providers and their families? Doesn’t government care about the health of the people these health workers serve? We are given no explanation,” he said.
“Church health workers are highly committed people who often work in difficult and sometimes dangerous situations.
“The very late payment of salaries, in particular, has adverse impacts on morale and performance.
“If the government is truly handing down a budget for families and the whole community, it must meet its basic commitment of paying church health workers in a timely and just manner.”
Archbishop Reichert also noted that the government’s commitment of ensuring equal pay of church and government workers has not yet fully happened.