Official criticises lack of awareness

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The National, Tuesday February 25th, 2014

 A SENIOR health official has criticised the lack of awareness done before the Government’s free primary health care policy was implemented from yesterday.

Sr Rachael Kurup, the officer in charge of the St John Hospital in Gerehu, Port Moresby, made the remark while addressing a crowd of confused patients who turned up at the clinic yesterday.

The Government announced the start of free basic health services to members of the public from yesterday. The 26 services included in-patient and outpatient care, ante-natal care consultation, baby delivery, ambulance, radiology, pathology and pharmacy prescriptions.

She said the hospital did not receive any notice from the Health Department that the policy would be effective from yesterday.

The hospital had no choice but to charge patients who turned up for medical treatment yesterday.

“We were not aware that the policy would be effective as of today (yesterday) and went on with our normal operations collecting fees from the confused patients,” she said.

Health Secretary Pascoe Kase said it was illegal for any medical facility run by the Government or churches to charge people fees as from yesterday.

But Kurup explained to the patients yesterday that because no proper communication was made to them by the Health Department, they were unsure if they were even under the policy.

She urged the Department of Health to properly consult hospitals and health facilities before implementing such policies.

“They are the policy makers and we are the implementers. How can we implement their policy if we are not made aware of it?” she said.

Kurup said the Government must meet the cost of operating the medical facilities because they could no longer collect fees from patients.

She said they would need to buy medical supplies and fund the administration. 

“We rely on fees for our daily logistics and office management like the printing services and stamps,” she said.

“And if these services are free, where will we get the money for replacements?”

Kurup said the hospital would not charge any fees from today.