Churches in Papua New Guinea have warned they will soon be forced to shut down rural health services because the Government has not paid staff salaries.
Churches run vital services across the country through Christian Health Services PNG (CHS), but said their workers haven’t been paid in four months.
They told the ABC they fear the closure will greatly harm the bulk of PNG’s population, who live in rural areas.
CHS should get its funding through monthly grants from the PNG Department of Health, but PNG Cardinal John Ribat said churches have been paying wages with reserve funds.
“The last four months, [health workers] did not receive their salaries,” he said, adding they had not received the money for the cost of operating their centres.
“They don’t they have much to see them through, those who do not have funds. Some churches and dioceses are not paying their workers at all.”
It isn’t the first time church-run health services have been left short by the PNG Government.
In 2016, the Government cut 50 million kina ($20 million) of funding towards church-run health services across the country, which left operations facing closure because of a lack of staff.
They fear it could happen again this Christmas, if the Government fails to act.
“This is not something we can just hear about and let go, it’s something that we really have to work on, to see what we can do at this time, to help the families celebrate Christmas at this time,” Cardinal Ribat said.
The General Secretary of the Catholic Bishop Conference, Father Victor Roche, said the PNG Government expects churches to dig into their own pockets to pay the bills.
“They are trying to cut the funding from the churches, because the Government thinks the churches will keep the services going,” he said.
“They continue to pay the Government health services because they know if they cut their services, it will stop running, but they know that the Catholic churches and other churches will keep it going with their reserve funding.
“The Government has to rethink that, unless they support the [churches], their services will dwindle as well.”
Father Roche said the Department of Health hasn’t responded to their attempts to get answers.
The ABC has sought a response from the PNG Health Department.