Gary Juffa: K50m health cutback in PNG – and it’s just a joke?

The substandard incomplete Transit Storage Facility in Oro province. Image: Gary Juffa

Last week I watched in absolute disgust as MPs in Papua New Guinea giggled and laughed as the Minister for Health made light humour over the fact that the government had slashed funding for Church-run health facilities to the tune of K50 million (about NZ$23 million).

I had asked for an explanation about the slash to our health services by the government and could the Minister explain exactly how much and what programmes exactly.

Minister Michael Malabag confirmed that the government had cut K50 million but only to the Church-run programmes and only the wages component.

But the most remote areas in Papua New Guinea where most of our people live are only serviced by Churches! Why did the government lie and declare that no cuts would be made to education and health last year and then do this?

Furthermore I asked when the Transit Medical Storage Facility in Oro (Northern province) was to be completed since work had commenced in 2013 had not been finished.

This was to be built to ensure timely delivery of drugs to our aidposts and hospitals and thus ensure we are best equipped to save lives. But the contract was never completed and yet K600,000 was paid to a contractor!

Now this contractor was dubiously given to a company namely Gini Construction owned by a male nurse who had zero experience and knowledge in building such infrastructure and had been illegally on the the Health payroll for 5 years until I took him off after I found out earlier this year.

Substandard, unfinished
The work is substandard and remains unfinished! Drugs are not delivered in a timely manner and patients have to travel hours to Popondetta to get treatment.

The Minister acknowledged that the contractor was paid and the job was incomplete. The Minister confirmed that CSTB awarded the contract! No surprise! The Minister confirmed the that the NDOH was now looking for money to complete the contract.

Why was this contractor illegally engaged? Why was he paid when he had not completed his job? Why hasn’t he been arrested and locked up, including the CSTB and NDOH official whose corrupt actions have resulted in medical risks and possible deaths of our people?

I will find out these public servants’ names and have them arrested.

I also asked if the NDOH had built a lab to verify drugs imported and distributed by the controversial Malaysian company, Borneo Pacific, as the government had promised to do since the company they were importing from China Pharmaceutical was cited for peddling counterfeit drugs by the WHO and NDOH had intentionally removed ISO certification as a criteria to allow them to select Bormeo Pharmaceutical at an extra K20 million more.

Minister admitted they had failed since to build such a lab.

Most MPs in government giggled and laughed as the Health Minister joked about the matter in Parliament during a supplementary question by Member for Lae Loujaya Kouja.

No laughing matter
Our people’s health is no laughing matter. Especially when many in remote areas are struggling to come into towns to find help and wait hours and even days before treatment. Many vulnerable people such as babies and elderly are dying from treatable medical matters.

Saving lives is any government’s fundamental role … but this government finds the deplorable health situation in our country and our people’s misery as a laughing matter.

PNG 2016 budget

Gary Juffa is an opposition MP in Papua New Guinea’s Parliament and governor of Northern province. This article was first published on his blog Juffa#TakeBackPNG and is republished with permission.

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