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Health Ministry given budget authority to fill needs

By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Jan. 13, 2012) – Health Minister Stevenson Kuartei Wednesday expressed gratitude to the Olbiil Era Kelulau and President Toribiong for the continuing budget authority, stating that the ministry is beginning to receive the essential drugs and medical supplies ordered off island.

Earlier, Kuartei appealed to the lawmakers to either pass the Fiscal Year 2012 budget or pass another continuing resolution that has no date restriction as the shortage of essential drugs and medical supplies was looming.

Because the first continuing resolution was only until December 31, Kuartei said the ministry was able to procure only 50 percent of the minimal essential drugs, medical supplies and lab reagents for the first quarter. It was anticipated that the ministry will begin to run out of drugs in the middle of January.

Before the expiration of the first continuing resolution, another continuing resolution was approved. The new resolution states that "funding shall be provided at the level of appropriations of the Fiscal Year 2011 Annual National Budget Authorization and Appropriation Act, RPPL No 8-18, as amended and supplemented, until an annual budget for Fiscal Year 2012 is enacted."

Kuartei thanked the OEK, the president and the general public for seeing the value of taking care of the health issue. "Providing basic health services and needs for our people should not be put at risk," he said.

Kuartei said that the minimal essential drug and medical supply list for the Ministry of Health is non-negotiable.

"It is a fixed cost for the Ministry of Health and if, there comes a time when a decision is needed to cut cost, I would even negotiate releasing personnel but, this list must be maintained at hand 100% of the time. The doctors, nurses and medical personnel have worked on this list and have decided on it based on the medical and disease needs for our Republic. It is the minimal essential list," the minister said.

On the other issues he raised previously such as the funding for recompression chamber for divers and National Health Insurance, and additional staffing at the hospital, Kuartei said he will wait for the Unified Budget 2012 to review and make necessary adjustments.

Kuartei said his ministry is ready to provide any and all information that is needed by the OEK to avert the same situation earlier from happening again.

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