This is a statement released by the National Department of Health. It says that health facilities are having difficulty staying open because of a shortage of funds.
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.
On Wednesday, 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 2nd Quarter Budget Review for government sectors was on in which it was heard that the financial woes facing the government was serious.
Top health beaurecratics from around the country attending the review had also informed the central agencies that health facilities have to make money to stay open by charging fees; the user-pay policy was scraped under the Government’s free primary healthcare 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.
At the meeting were Deputy Health Secretary, National Health Policy & Corporate Services, Ms Elva Lionel; Executive Manager for Strategic Policy Mr Ken Wai; Executive Manager for Corporate Services Mr Paul Dopsie and representatives of the Christian Health Services and Chief Executive Officers of Hospitals and Provincial Health Authorities from around the country.
Chief Executive Officer for Milne Bay Provincial Health Authority 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, as he tried to show in his presentation that the financial woes facing MBPHA was 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.
CEOs from other provinces gave similar reports, saying changes to the Organic Law would take a long time to ensure health grants are given to the health services so they need support in policy amendments.
Speaking as a group, the health sector group also 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’s our job to save lives,’’ said Mr Wai. Similar sentiments were expressed by Mr Dopsie and hospital CEOs who said patients’ lives were being put in danger when bills for electricity and water were not being paid on time.
Concerns raised on the cash flow problems also included not paying some health workers for long periods of time and not being able to pay rentals for medical staff. The budget cut will also affect the medical supplies enormously.
Ms 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. Also, 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.