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Archbishop hits health funding delays: 'Unacceptable to church'


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. 


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Paulus Ripa

In the rural areas the churches provide almost the only health services that function well. This is despite the usual problems of poor and delayed funding by the government.

The second problem is that many health facilities are funded at lower levels than their actual status. For instance Kudjip Nazarene Hospital and the Mingende Hospitals are still funded as health centres. Furthermore health centres are funded as if they are clinics.

The original agreement I believe (and I stand to be corrected) was that the government approached the churches to manage the health services whilst the funding would be from the government.

There should be legislation to ensure that the PNG government remunerates the entire health budget for the church health services as well as a certain management fee.

Kina for kina, the churches spend their money more efficiently.

Recently I was invited to the opening of the paediatric wing of the Mingende Hospital. From a K2 million grant they constructed several new buildings.

On the other hand, I was coming from Goroka where two old buildings were refurbished for the UPNG clinical school in Goroka for K8 million.

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