Rural hospitals face closure

Major rural hospitals run by the Lutheran Health Services are facing imminent closure due to lack of funding.

National Health Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Katu Yapi, is concerned that they will have no choice but to close all four major rural hospitals in Morobe and Madang.

Lutheran Health Services, a health ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG, runs health facilities in the Momase and Highlands regions.

LHS has 89 health facilities in these regions; 36 of these are run by LHS Morobe, which also includes a health facility in West New Britain Province. Twenty-nine health facilities are in Madang and Sepik, including two major rural hospitals at Yagaum in Madang district and Gaubin on Karkar Island in Sumkar district.

The LHS Highlands region has 24 health facilities spread across Eastern Highlands, Simbu, Jiwaka and Western Highlands.

ELCPNG National Health Secretary, Yapi, is afraid that most of these facilities will have to be closed as they have not received any operational grant from the government this year.

“Lutheran Health Services only received salary grant,” he said. “But for operational grant, there is none since January up until June. So support staff, casuals, they haven’t gotten their salary since January.

“It has come to a time where we need to stress that service delivery at the rural facilities is not up to the standard where it used to be because medical supplies have not reached those facilities. And this is also because the Government has not been funding LD Logistics, who have been tasked to supply medical supplies to rural areas.”

Secretary Yapi said orders from April were delivered in late August via MV Ialibu to the Morobean facilities of Braun Memorial Rural Hospital in Finschhafen, Wagizareng, Mindik, Kalasa, Etep and Kabwum.

“We acknowledge the downturn in the economy of the country and we look forward that the Government of Papua New Guinea can come good in September – this month – and can top up the operational grant which is mainly used to buy fuel for land ambulances, sea ambulances, stationery and salary for the support staff.”

In July, LHS Madang and Sepik had their operational grant cut by 71 percent, making it impossible to effectively run their 29 health facilities. LHS Morobe suffered an 88 percent cut for its 36 health facilities.

“We cannot go on without funding,” stated the secretary. “We’d like to appeal to the Government, in September, to come good for all the Christian Health Services unit.

“We, the executives of Lutheran Health Services, met and we have decided that by September, if the operational grant doesn’t come good, we will close all the big rural hospitals. In Morobe we have two; that’s Braun and Etep in Tewai-Siassi. In Madang we have Yagaum in Madang district and Gaubin on Karkar Island.”

Braun rural hospital services over 14,000 people, Etep caters to over 19,000 residents, Yagaum has over 12,000 people and over 26,000 locals access the Gaubin Rural Hospital.

Secretary Yapi said they will have no choice but make referrals to the ANGAU Memorial Provincial Hospital, which also has its own problems.

Carmella Gware