Bishops Endorse ‘Stop-Work’ Notice 

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-        Nigel Akuani

 

Port Moresby: Catholic Bishops have agreed to endorse the joint decision of the Catholic Church Health Services (CCHS) and Christian Health Services (CHS) to stop work at health centres throughout the country.

 

The announcement was made in a press conference on 2nd July, at the CBC Headquarters in Gordons, that had present 17 bishops from around Papua New Guinea, 13 media personnel from various organisations, and staff of CBC.

 

Four bishops formed the panel of speakers namely: His Eminence Cardinal Sir John Ribat MSC, Archdiocese of Port Moresby; His Excellency Archbishop Rochus Tatamai MSC, Archbishop-elect of Rabaul; His Grace Archbishop Anton Bal, Archbishop of Madang; and Bishop Otto Separy, Diocese of  Bereina. 

 

According to the statement given by Abp Anton Bal, “the agreement by the Catholic Bishops was reached due to the ongoing delay of vital funding since January 2020, that was essential for payment of staff salaries and operational costs.”

 

He said the bishops’ action to endorse the ‘stop work’ notice, was due to the government’s inability to pay health care personnel under these agencies for the past six months.

 

CCHS Bishop Deputy, Bp Francis Meli of the Diocese of Vanimo, stressed the severity of conditions faced by doctors and nurses under the organisations and appealed for immediate assistance from the government. “To operate and provide these health services around the country we need money and we have been doing this painfully over the years. This year the delay in Operational and Salary grants has been for six months and this has affected doctors’ and nurses’ work, their family and overall livelihood,” he said.

 

Cardinal Ribat emphasized the importance of the Health sector in the country and stressed for better plans and equipment to develop the sector and for effectiveness in the implementation of those plans.

 

The bishops were grateful for the measures taken to safeguard the people of PNG from the threat of COVID-19, but called for the government to reimburse the full amount owed to nurses. They urged for the government to adhere to legitimate constitutional principles when instituting further measures, and for transparency in accounting of all funds secured for the purpose of COVID-19 mitigation and response.

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