Govt warned of tragic health consequences

The Government has been warned of catastrophic consequences nationwide if health funding is reduced again in the 2018 national budget.

Shadow Minister for Health and HIV/AIDS, Joseph Yopyyopy, said this was in view of the fact that PNG’s health system is already fragile and under-resourced.

He said the funding reductions in PNG’s health sector since 2015 would bring even the most robust health system to its knees.

The warning comes as the Government prepares to table PNG’s 2018 money plan tomorrow (Nov 28) in Parliament.

“PNG’s health expenditure has been radically reduced during the past two years, compounding people’s miseries nationwide in a health system that is already desperately struggling.

“The level of reduction is attributable to the combined impact of reduced government revenue, population growth, the falling value of the kina, and to a lesser extent, reduced development partner contributions,” Yopyyopy stressed.

He noted that official records show the latest PNG Government budget prediction with inflation adjusted per capita (real) expenditure falling from K80 per head in 2014, to K52 per head in 2017 (a reduction of 35 percent), with forecast of K37 per head in 2021 (a reduction of 55 percent).

Yopyyopy urged the Government to take serious heed of important contributing factors, including:

  • PNG’s population estimated in the 2011 census to be growing at 3.1 percent a year;
  • The combined impact of population growth (3.1 percent) and inflation (6.8 percent) means that in order for services to maintain their current level, 10 percent a year increase in nominal funding is required; 
  • The economic difficulties are compounded by a longstanding problem of inadequate flow of funds from Treasury to the health sector;
  • Treasury is very slow to release funds due to current severe cash flow constraints, so that even reduced budgets are not delivered on time to the hospitals and clinics;
  • Eleven months into 2017, hospitals and provincial health authorities have received less than their budgeted allocation, further exacerbating the funding situation; and
  • With very limited funding only being accessible in the last final months of 2017 financial year, health organisations struggle to spend, and to spend effectively.

Meanwhile, Northern Governor Gary Juffa also raised similar sentiments, calling on the Government to seriously consider the state of the nation's health situation, claiming that the provinces and district hospitals nationwide were running out of drugs and basic consumables.

Juffa highlighted that he has been getting constant reports from his people that the province’s aid posts and hospitals were issuing prescriptions for drugs and sending them away.

He says the funding constraint was virtually a death sentence for the most vulnerable and especially those living in rural areas, where many of the people couldn't afford the drugs and were feeling that the free health care policy was a major let down.

Freddy Mou