The Government’s central agencies have been told in no uncertain terms that the financial crisis facing the health sector will mean some services have to be closed down unless funds come somewhere, a report stated.
On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, while the newly-elected MPs sat in Parliament for the election of the new Prime Minister and the Speaker, it was business as usual for the public service; the three-day second Quarter Budget Review for government sectors was on in which it was heard that the financial woes facing the government were serious.
A report released today (August 7, 2017) states that the top health bureaucrats from around the country who attended the review had informed the central agencies that health facilities have to make money to stay open by charging fees; the user-pay policy was scrapped under the Government’s Free Primary Health Care Policy. The other options would include diverting funds from areas like development programs to cater for essential services until the country is on a strong financial footing.
Chief Executive Officer for Milne Bay Provincial Health Authority (MBPHA) Billy Naidi said the money earned from charging hospital fees in the previous years (prior to Free Healthcare Policy) helped ensure they kept the services going when they did not receive their health grants on time.
“Our people will pay. If they can buy betelnut and smoke, they can pay for medicine,too,’’ he said while veiling emotions, as he tried to show in his presentation that the financial woes facing MBPHA were worse than it was previously.
“The people are saying, when we paid we received the services. Now it is free but there is no medicine.
Mr Naidi said MBPHA cannot pay utility bills on time because this function has been centralised and they need money to pay a long list of retirees, a number of whom have died while waiting for their payouts, and the health grants being received by the Provincial Administration is not being given to the health sector as required by law.
The statement confirms similar reports from CEOs of other provinces who were anxious that changes to the Organic Law would take a long time to ensure health grants are given to the health services, thus they need support in policy amendments.
Reportedly, the health sector group also collaboratively voiced that while the budget ceiling for all sectors is low, this could not be accepted for the health sector which is about saving lives.
They said lowering the budget any further would mean jeopardising the required standards of healthcare and thereby putting lives at risk.
“We deal with lives, it is our job to save lives,’’ said Executive Manager for Strategic Policy, Mr. Ken Wai.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Executive Manager for Corporate Services, Paul Dopsie while other hospital CEOs shared patients’ lives were being put in danger when bills for electricity and water were not being paid on time.
According to the report, concerns raised on the cash flow problems also include non-payment of some health workers for long periods of time and also the non-payment of rental allowances for medical staff.
It is understood, the budget cut will also affect the medical supplies enormously.
Deputy Health Secretary, National Health Policy & Corporate Services, Ms Elva Lionel highlighted the immediate priorities of the health sector, including addressing major diseases facing the country and new reforms being made to improve the supply chain of the medical supplies. She said the country was also already in danger of seeing disease outbreaks because it has very low immunisation coverage rates.
The central agencies; Departments of Personnel Management, Planning and Treasury have, in response, asked to work together to address the issues highlighted in the health sector.
The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Christian Health Services and Chief Executive Officers of Hospitals and Provincial Health Authorities from around the country.