| The Guardian | Judith Nielson Institute | Extract
PORT MORESBY - Papua New Guinea’s main ambulance service – St John Ambulance – was allocated no money in the Marape government’s budget for 2021.
St John Ambulance runs a fleet in Port Moresby and across provincial centres. For much of the country it is the only ambulance service.
On a budget already reduced by more than two-thirds, St John has been forced to cut the number of ambulances operating in and around Port Moresby and to run fewer shifts.
There are concerns the service could shut down over Christmas. Management has even considered selling some ambulances to keep going.
The St John budget was K10 million in 2019 but this was slashed in 2020 to just K3 million, of which only K1 million has been received.
When the -controversial PNG budget for 2021 was passed by parliament in November without the opposition present, zero kina was allocated to St John.
“We are beyond disappointed that [an] oversight resulted in public ambulance service funding being entirely left out from the government’s 2021 budget,” St John said in a statement.
“We are still determining how we will continue any of our lifesaving services to the public.”
The PNG treasury department said the funding cut was an oversight – the budget was hastily passed with the government fearing a court injunction from the opposition – but despite promises no funding has been restored.
The chair of the National St John Council, Jean Kekedo, has asked prime minister James Marape to immediately restore the service’s budget, saying without it more than 100 frontline ambulance staff will be laid off or lose shifts over Christmas.
“Reducing services isn’t taken lightly, the financial position of St John is a huge concern, St John cannot continue to borrow money to cover costs to provide services for and on behalf of the government,” St John said.
St John has provided an ambulance service in PNG for more than 60 years. It runs 25 ambulances in Port Moresby, Kokopo, Central, Morobe, Simbu and Madang provinces.
It also worked with Tropicai and Manolos aviation to provide air ambulance services.