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PNG Free health care policy not reliable

Staff Reporter 9/26/2013 | |
THE much-talked about free health care policy comes with uncertainties says one policy expert from the National Health Department.
The policy will be launched by the Government next month.
However, Agnes Pawion from the strategic policy decision yesterday in a meeting with chief executive officers from provincial hospitals, health sector workers and stakeholders, says the policy was written without input from all relevant authorities and all stakeholders.
The policy involving the population already sees impediments in implementation as services are challenging and care is very complex and expensive.
Navy Mulao from the health department pointed out potential risks involved once the policy gets underway. 
Generally, there will be an increase demand by clientele;
* Affecting the moral performance of staff, supply and consumption of drugs and medical supplies;
* There will be exerted pressure on limited number of facilities, such as beds and equipment;
* Rural health facilities will revert to charging user fees if funds do not reach them;
* Quality services will be affected when funds are delayed;
* National referral system will be abused, such as patients will bypass Provincial health centre facilities to seek hospital based care;
* Large church run hospitals and health centres may be forced to adopt emergency measures such as shutting down facilities if operational grants from the government are inadequate in replacing the revenue; and
* Also inadequate and untimely release of operational funds to facilities. 
These risks can be mitigated says Mulao if the government fixes the existing system and there is direct health facility funding with bottlenecks in the funding system from sources to delivery points.
Mr Mulao pointed out that the medical standards division must fast track the accreditation of all provincial health centre facilities so that levels of funding from the government can be sourced to finance the operations of the large church run district hospitals. He further pointed out that the health minister should declare selected church run district hospitals as public hospitals for the purpose of charging user fees.
Moreover, the workforce arrest plan must be implemented, and a regulatory system in districts and provinces is a must for the policy to be implemented.

The Post Courier

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