Boost to church health services needs praise

Editorial

THE secretariat of Christian Health Services received a further boost from the government when its 2017 organisational structure was approved by the Department of Personnel Management.
This now means that all staff of the Christian Health Services, like public servants, will be paid through the government’s payroll system.
Christian Health Services chief executive Dr Ulch Tapia described the approval as a boost to the morale of their workers.
Church Health Services employ a total of 3684 people, including church agency health managers or directors, doctors, health extension officers, nurses and community health workers. Its secretariat oversees the health ministries of 23 churches in the country and five associate groups which operate 713 validated and funded health facilities in the 22 provinces.
These easily accounts for more than half of the health facilities in Papua New Guinea.  And the support by government, although coming gradually over the years, is fair recognition of the churches’ effort.
The assistance began with the allocation of annual operational grants to church-run health facilities which also covered salaries and wages. Over the years the government has also assisted in areas such as joint investments in infrastructure.
Tapia says the CHS secretariat is thankful that consecutive governments continue to fund its health services throughout the country, which is quite rare compared to other countries.
The recent announcement by DPM to take all the church health workers under its payroll is a big step forward and there is hope for marked improvements in healthcare delivery throughout the country.
For one thing, the churches and associated agencies that have been paying their own health workers should now have savings to spend on other aspects of their operations.
Inspired by the Gospel message, the churches have been striving to provide the best healthcare possible with dignity, respect, compassion and dedication in partnership with the government and non-government healthcare providers through health promotion, training, clinical care
and evidence-based research work.
The move by government will possibly provide church health agencies a savings in resources and operations to venture into new areas or expand existing services.
According to Tapia, the churches can now:

  • Explore additional rural health facilities to be run by the Christian Health Services;
  • Increase health promotion and prevention activities; and
  • Create incentives for doctors and nurses.

Given the track record of churches in the country, wherever possible they should be given the opportunity to operate more health facilities. Through their established networks, and evangelistic ministries, the churches obviously are well-placed to do that.
If the government can take care of salaries, the church agencies can provide additional incentives to ensure their staff members are well cared for wherever they are.
The biggest complaint from the churches in the past in regards to government assistance has been the delay in releasing funds to the healthcare providers. The churches were not getting money when they needed it. What may be considered as “normal” delays in the bureaucracy may not be acceptable to church-run facilities that are used to a different level of efficiency in their operations. This is something that must be appreciated by government agencies, and such an understanding will go a long way into enhancing the church-government partnership.
It will also enable churches and their allied agencies to progressively take much of the healthcare burden away from government. All the government needs to do is to allocate funding promised to them when they need it.
As rightly pointed out, the approval of the Church Health Services’ organisational structure this week is a morale booster for the thousands of health workers around the country.
It is a certainly a step to better things in the provision of healthcare in the country. It should be appreciated by all.

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