PNG Free Primary Health Care Policy Yet To Become Reality

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Health Center’s continue to charge fees to keep operating

By Beatrice Bonakoya

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 18, 2015) – The Government’s free primary health care policy is yet to be realised by the people, a parliamentary committee has been told.

The parliamentary committee on public sector reform and service delivery chaired by Goroka MP Bire Kimisopa has been hearing submissions from officials on issues they face in the delivery of health services. The hearing ends today with top Health Department officials meeting the committee members.

Sister-in-charge of the Malahang health centre in Lae, Daisy Basa, told the committee yesterday that the centre continued to charge sick people fees in order to keep the facility operating.

The clinic was allocated K12,500 [US$4,136] in 2013, all of which had been exhausted. It is yet to receive its allocation from the 2014 and 2015 national budgets.

"If I can be allocated K200,000 [US$66,175], it can cater for me for the whole year at the implementation level," she said.

Basa was accompanied by the Morobe deputy provincial administrator Sheila Pati Harou and deputy provincial health adviser Jack Aita.

Western province health officials who appeared before the committee on Monday shared similar concerns on the lack of funding to effectively implement health programme.

The committee also heard concerns about health professionals being driven into the private sector by better working conditions and remuneration. Their departure has created staffing problems.

Morobe was allocated K730,745 [US$241,785] this year to deliver free health care in government-run health facilities. The committee concluded that it was unrealistic given that the amount was going to be shared by Morobe’s nine districts.

Committee chairman Kimisopa agreed that densely populated provinces such as Morobe needed more funding to ensure free health care was available to the rural people.

The free health care policy is a brainchild of the current Government which allocated K1.565 billion [US$518 million] to the department in the 2016 budget. It constitutes 11 per cent of the total 2016 expenditure.

The committee was also told that the procurement processes on the delivery of medical equipment were unrealistic.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had earlier said this year that despite having good health facilities, the country had often lacked leadership to allow the facilities to operate properly.

"Papua New Guineans must think seriously about healthcare in our country," he said.

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