PNG Catholic Health staff face big pay cuts
Papua New Guinea's Catholic Health Services are facing major cutbacks after cuts in government funding.
Health services in Papua New Guinea run by the Catholic Church are facing a major shake up after cuts in government funding.
Catholic Health provides care around the country and, with other faith based organisations, has long taken on much of the responsibility for maintaining PNG medical services.
The director of Catholic Health Services, Justine McMahon, spoke to Don Wiseman about the government cutbacks and began by outlining their role.
JUSTINE McMAHON: We provide between a quarter and a third of all health care in the country, and the majority of those services are located in remote and rural areas where the majority of the population is.
DON WISEMAN: You have 3,000 staff spread over quite often small facilities.
JMcM: That's right. Some of those staff are ancillary staff but the majority of them are health workers who work in often very difficult and dangerous situations.
DW: For a long time you have been dependent on the government for a large portion of your funding - just how big a portion?
JMcM: Oh very significant. So the government provides the bulk of the salary costs and also quite a significant proportion of the operational costs as well. So the church would see it as supplementing the services that are provided for the government and they are very much a partner of the government.
DW: In terms of the money that you get from the government, how many kina are you talking about?
JMcM: How many kina? For the Catholics, last year with both salaries and operational, it probably would have been about 40 million kina.
DW: But the government has cut that.
JMcM: It has been cut back to the levels of 2014. Up until a few years ago, the church health workers got paid significantly less than their government counterparts, so there were many years of advocacy and discussion of the injustice of the parallel, particularly when the church health workers, and this is not just me saying this, this is a widespread relief, the churches provide high quality services so they should get paid the same as the government [workers]. And the government did agree to that a few years ago, but what this will do, this cut, will take them back to the levels they were getting in 2014.
DW: How big a cut in pay are people looking at then?
JMcM: Well when we take into consideration the increases they got for the parity, then going back to 2014, for some people they would be experiencing 40 percent pay cuts I think.
DW: You will lose staff surely?
JMcM: Yes we will and staff have to be put off but other staff will leave because they will not put up with that level of cut.
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