By DULCIE OREKE
PORT Moresby’s newest hospital, St John Hospital at Gerehu, has shut down due to lack of funding to sustain its operations.
The hospital, which opened last year with much fanfare and a K3.6 million funding from the Government, closed its gates at 5pm on Monday.
From yesterday, staff told patients through the locked hospital gates to seek treatment and consultation at the Port Moresby General Hospital and other town clinics.
Only serious and emergency cases were being admitted.
Hospital CEO and St John Commissioner Douglas Kelson said yesterday the staff and administration had agreed to shut down operations following “lack of response” from the Health Department for funding.
Mr Kelson said no budget was allocated to the hospital since November and “it will be irresponsible to operate without funding”.
“The hospital will remain closed indefinitely until the funding woes are addressed or when funds become available to recommence operations,” he said.
However, Health secretary Dr Clement Malau said the Government had provided K3.6 million to St John last year and St John received another K750,000 on Feb 1.
On top of this, NCD Governor Powes Parkop had also given K95,000 for the purchase of an ambulance.
“It is up to St John to manage what we have provided. Our role is not to micro-manage hospitals,” Dr Malau said.
He urged St John to manage resources “properly and pay the staff their salaries”.
“We are now making arrangements to see if we can pay the staff directly from the department so that we do not have another walk-out or threat of walk-out by the staff,” Dr Malau said. It is understood that hospital staff had petitioned Dr Malau last month, complaining about lack of financial accountability by the St John management of funds allocated by the Government for the hospital’s sole use as well as fees received from patients – between K1,000 and K3,000 a week – for treatment and consultancy.
The hospital’s medical services director Raipen Dikinsep said the hospital treats an average of 600 patients daily but this had increased to 800 in recent months as more in-patient beds and the maternity wing were added to upgrade it to a level 5 hospital.