HUNDREDS of workers in health facilities run by churches around the country have not been paid since February, forcing a partial shutdown of service beginning last Friday, an official says.
The Christian Health Services (CHS) and Catholic Church Health Services (CCHS) had served a stop-work notice on the Health Department last month, warning to pay up the salary grants due to them since February, or they would close down the facilities.
Workers have not been paid for four months.
CHS executive and general-assembly chairman Japalis Kaiok said the deadline given to the Government was last Friday to pay around K60 million in salary and operations grants due to the health facilities.
“As of 4.06pm today (Friday), the CHS has been forced to impose a countrywide partial stop-work,” he said.
The CHS has 27 member church agency health services with more than 4,000 employees working in 508 health facilities.
“This is the first, (after) more than 100 years of providing uninterrupted health service to the people of PNG,” Kaiok said.
“The Government has been responding but at a slow pace.
“It was a tough decision for us as a church but the board has to stand by its word.”
Health and HIV/AIDS Minister Jelta Wong said all funds owed to the church health services should be paid before the end of the month.
The first K30 million is expected to be paid this week and another K30 million before the end this month.
“Because of the Covid-19, we are having a bit of a cash flow problem,” he said.
Wong told The National yesterday that funds were released but the process was slow, hence the churches decided to go ahead with their strike, but essential services were still provided.
“The Treasurer and Finance Minister are coming up with solutions to make sure that this does not happen again.”
Kaiok said the salary grants from March to June and operational grants for May and June were outstanding.
The plan is to completely down tools if nothing is sorted out by Aug 3.
Former Health Minister Sir Peter Barter said health workers had families to feed and should not be expected to work for nothing.
Sir Peter, the managing director of the Melanesian Tourist Services Ltd, said the Government’s failure to pay the grants was a serious problem.
“Many people will no longer have access to health care services which at its best in PNG falls well below acceptable standards,” Sir Peter said in a statement.
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