Health funding is good news


FOR years, the social sector has had a large chunk of annual budgets.
Education, and health have been the biggest recipients and spenders of public financing.
Education, because of the number of institutions and people it directly employs or caters for, has been allocated slightly more than health.
In the money plan for the coming year, however, it is health that is going to get the biggest allocation in the budget.
This is partly due to what the global Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has done by simply confirming what has been common knowledge: the national health system is weak, stressed and on the brink of collapse.
The pandemic’s toll on public hospitals would have been catastrophic had the Covid-19 situation gotten any worse and out of hand. Even with outside assistance and intervention the public health system would not have been capable to have handled a worse pandemic scenario.
The overall rationale for the increased budgetary allocation in 2022 is to strengthen this crumbling health system and hopefully improve district and provincial health facilities to status where they can adequately handle any future health crises.
More good news in the health front is that the Central Province will at last have its own hospital.
To say that it would be a relief would sound like an understatement as residents of Port Moresby are all too-familiar with those tents erected opposite the Port Moresby General Hospital.
They are set up there by guardians of patients from the province admitted at the hospital.
As long as they are in hospital their guardians live in these tents to keep an eye on them.
This sad story will likely be a thing of the past when the province has its own hospital.
The K500 million hospital project was launched on Monday.
The Central provincial hospital will be a small relief too for the National Capital District which has for years shared hospital services with Central.
The hospital will be built at Bautama, the same site where the planned Central City concept was launched but somehow allowed to fall through before it really got off the ground.
Hopefully, when the provincial hospital gets opened and operational from 2025 onward, it will attract other developments to the vicinity.
While the funding of the health sector is appreciated and welcome, it is a little baffling to note that the St John Ambulance has not been allocated funding directly under this budget.
It is baffling because, over the years never has the St John Ambulance played a more critical and visible role than in the past couple of years when the city of Port Moresby especially reeled under the Covid-19.
The ambulance service has even provided testing and care and monitoring services of its own to complement services provided by the public health facilities in the city.
It provided critical first responder health and emergency services without which there would have been a lot more casualties from the Covid-19 and other causes.
That the ambulance service had been overlooked in the budgetary process is quite surprising and unacceptable, although its management may have been given some reassurance that there would be funding fort its operations in the new year.
For obvious reasons, direct funding to St John is preferable to getting funding via the health department.
It has been pointed out that this is the second year such an oversight has happened when there is standing agreement with the department and the ambulance service that all provinces will eventually be covered by ambulance services.
To effect this agreement, better and surer provisions for funding such as in direct budgetary allocations should be in place.