BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
CAPACITY and compliance are to be satisfied first before the National Referral Hospital (NRH) can have its own budget or become independent according to the Ministry of Health.
This is according to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) Permanent Secretary (PS) during the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing into the 2018 Supplementary Appropriation Bill at Parliament last week.
However, Member of Parliament (MP) for Shortland Christopher Laore does not accept this statement, further questioning the ministry how much longer they will have to wait before capacity and compliance are satisfied.
“I feel that the NRH has been neglected for so long. If we think of after moving to the new National Hospital site before we make things progress then I believe the NRH will run down continuously until it will be not conducive for sick patients.
“The question is how long will the health planners see to it and consider NRH as it is important it provides tertiary hospital services. Primary health care does not work in this country.
“Donor funding only goes towards primary health care services. I do not know if it goes towards tertiary services which is what I want to ask donors too because health services in primary health care is very poor.
“Illness and diseases are rising because of poor performance on the primary health care. We can see that the trend is going up.
“And, I am asking how much of the funds from aid donors are geared towards NRH for its services.”
Laore questioned if MHMS is seriously looking at health services or just want funding to do purchase of vehicles and carry out awareness, training and other areas which in reality, health care in the country is still poor and lacking.
“So how long before you will seriously look to support the NRH to be autonomous that deals with its own services?”
Laore expressed that he usually visits the NRH from time to time which is unlike before.
“Now I see that it is deteriorating. I think most of the services there are not functioning.
“It is like a workshop, if you have a mechanic but you do not have the tool then it is useless. You know what to do but you do not have the tool to do it. It will be useless as the car will stay there for ages,” said the MP for Shortland.
According to the PS of MHMS, NRH having its own budget is a long term plan of the Ministry.
“Once we are satisfied in terms of the capacity and compliance of NRH as there are issues too with the ministry in capacity and compliance over which if we see that the ministry can run on its own then we will let it be that way because MHMS is in line with the idea to run on separate budgets to do own managements,” confirmed the MHMS PS.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for NRH Dr Steve Aumanu in supporting his PS, pointed out that he does not have any answer to the decision for NRH to be autonomous as perhaps it is subjected to many other factors too.
“One alluded to is capacity but I am glad to say that this year we have started to capacitate the Finance Department and Cooperate Department so we are working towards capacitating especially in the finance unit,” said NRH’s CEO.
“Secondly if the time comes, the Health Services Act will need to be amended, reviewed and legitimise autonomy for the hospital. At this point of time, its existing health services are.
“NRH because of the nature of the service has a potential to attract benefactors such as from NGOs and individuals and I really believe that is one good side of being autonomous because people who donate money to governments or hospitals would like it to be fairly transparent and accountable in which I am not saying that it is not happening.
“We can develop MOA’s and MOU’s contracts with benefactors that will help assist in their donations to the hospital. So the hospital has a potential to get assistance.”
There was a cabinet paper presented during under the leadership of one of the former PSs of MHMS in relation to their consultant incentives being passed and that was for NRH to have its own budget and run autonomous from the Ministry of Health.
Question by Laore was whether this has happened or are they yet still following the bureaucratic system meaning NRH does not have its own budget to look after its own services in deciding on maintenance, order of equipments, medicines and other areas.