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Some $191 million earmarked for Bautama facility

By Noel Pascoe PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Aug. 20, 2010) –The Papua New Guinea government is to get overseas financing to put up PNG’s half of the cost of the lavish new private hospital to be built at Bautama, near Port Moresby.

Health Minister Sasa Zibe told the Post-Courier yesterday when clarifying where the money for the proposed Pacific Medical Centre would come from. "The Chinese and the Japanese are very keen to finance us with this venture, ‘’ Mr Zibe said. He was earlier questioned about the impression that the Government was to scrap the budget financing for large projects for provincial hospitals to make way for PMC funding.

Mr Zibe did not give a specific answer about the provincial projects but said also that Australian aid was proposed to be used in such cases. He said the Australians preferred to spend their aid money on the health system, but that the NEC had pushed for the Aussie dollars to be spent on our hospitals, and this would have to be negotiated. Copies of budget planning documents leaked to the media recently showed that the controversial PMC is budgeted to receive PGK259.3 million [US$97.5 million] next year for construction and a further PGK250 million [US$94 million] in the following year. This funding, Mr Zibe said yesterday, will come from China and Japan and not from PNG internal revenue.

In April, Medical Board chairman Mathias Sapuri said the new hospital would be sustained without using the Government’s funds that were earmarked for existing hospitals.

"It is important that the public needs to know that it is not a government-funded project,’’ he said. "Three entities will be involved and will follow the principle of a private-public partnership.’’

Now officials are worried that major hospital upgrades already planned for will be endangered by the last minute inclusion of the PMC funding.

There were redevelopment proposals for three major hospitals which have fallen into a bad state in recent years: Angau in Lae is supposed to receive K410 million for capital construction costs, Nonga at Rabaul to get K250 million and Kerema K130 million. Goroka is to get K80 million spent on refurbishment to prepare its new clinical medicine school to train the nation’s doctors. Senior doctors fear these projects may be cut or reduced to fit in the PMC idea.

The Government has planned to construct the PMC on the Central City land at Bautama, a short drive from Port Moresby. Central City has had a mostly bad history with only a handful of houses built there despite the expenditure of many millions.

Private hospital shareholder and longtime teaching professional Dr Glen Mola has been a critic of the PMC concept from the start.

He debunked the idea that ex-President Bill Clinton would raise money in the USA for the project, on behalf of PNG, and that Seventh Day Adventist institutions in the US would also help.

"The fact of the matter is that none of this is true,’’ Dr Mola said. "Mr Clinton has not agreed to take any role in either fund raising or support for the PMC project, and the regional office of the Clinton Foundation has confirmed that the Clinton Foundation in Papua New Guinea will not be actively supporting this project either.’’

He said the SDA groups in the US who were approached by ambassador Paki to help with planning of the PMC had said that they would not put any money into the project. "All PNG’s development partners (NZAid, AusAID, UNFPA, WHO, UNICEF, World Bank, ADB etc) at a meeting with the Minister for Health a couple of weeks ago made it very clear to Mr Zibe that there would be no financial support forthcoming from any of them for the PMC project,’’ Dr Mola said.

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