23 Aug 2007

Row in Fiji over Methodist hospital escalates

5:59 am on 23 August 2007

A row between Fiji's health ministry and the Methodist Church over the Ba Mission Hospital is escalating with the government threatening to pull out its health services and relocating elsewhere.

The Methodist Church owes the government 260-thousand US dollars for the maintenance of the buildings.

The interim health minister. Dr Jona Senilagakali, is insisting that the church pay up because it has been collecting huge amounts of money in its annual fundraising, with 1-point-4 million US dollars raised in the blast four days alone.

The general secretary of the Methodist Church, the Rev Ame Tugawe, says they had an agreement with the previous SDL government to write off the debt.

But the deposed prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has told local radio he does not recollect such an agreement.

The minister, Dr Senilagakali, says unless the church pays up, he will relocate all hospital facilities to the Ba Health Centre and build another hospital in Ba.

Dr Senilagakali says he has already discussed the financing with the interim finance minister.

The Methodist Church's annual conference is due to discuss the issue next week.