THE Catholic Church has lamented the Government chopping K50.7 million from its health budget, which will affect services at its rural hospitals, health facilities, VCT centres, a nursing school and community health worker training schools.
The church’s medical arm - the Catholic Church Health Services of Papua New Guinea - currently runs five rural hospitals, 244 health facilities, 29 standalone VCT (voluntary counseling and testing) centres, a nursing school and four community health worker training schools.
But the CCHS, in a full-page advertorial in last Friday’s edition of the Post-Courier, warned that the cut will impact on the operations of its services and the 3000 staff who work there.
"Those facilities are staffed by almost 3000 people, who not only provide services to the community but who support the local economy. Most of those services are located in remote and rural areas where the majority of the population lives. In many of those places there are no other health centres close by," the church said.
The church said the budget cut could now force it to lay off staff, which would mean other workers taking on extra responsibilities.
"They are now facing the real prospect of having to take on the work of staff who have left or been laid off. To then be told that their pay will be cut to 2014 levels will certainly have an adverse effect on morale."
The church provides over a quarter of all health care in PNG hence any cuts in the Government’s budgetary support will have an effect on over 80 per cent of the country’s 7 million people.
Health and HIV/AIDS Minister Michael Malabag confirmed the budget cuts yesterday when contacted by this newspaper, which he said compelled the Health Department to raise its concerns with the Treasury Department.
"I can only conclude that there was an oversight by those that framed the budget but I must emphasis here that the health of our people must never be compromised. I want this situation to be rectified…I am waiting for department to provide me a comprehensive assessment before I take it to NEC to discuss shortfalls," he said.
Another church partner, the United Church also confirmed - through its moderator Reverend Bernard Usiai - that the Government also cut their budget this year.
"I can confirm that the United Church was only given K10 million for its budget this year," he said at the Tanim Graun live-televised show in Port Moresby last Friday.
National Planning Minister Charles Abel, who also sat on Tanim Graun show panel, indicated that the slump in global commodity prices had an impact on the Government’s cash flow and affecting its programs.