Figures showing the decline have been revealed by former health minister Nandi Glassie.
In a research titled “Health Reforms in the Cook Islands 1995-2015” for his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) studies, Glassie revealed funds allocated for health in this country have decreased gradually since the 2012/13 financial year.
In a presentation based on preliminary findings from his research, made to the senior staff of Rarotonga Hospital on Wednesday, Glassie said the health ministry had been under-budgeted since 1996.
His presentation on health expenditure rates between July, 2012 and June, 2018 also show money spent on health per the national gross domestic product (GDP) has dipped since 2014.
“The health budgets over the years have been running on a deficit basis,” Glassie told CINews after his presentation.
“As a former (health) minister, I’m fully aware you have to share the cake equally with everyone else, but the health of the people is extremely important. If we have a healthy population, it will enhance and encourage our economic development.
“When you have healthy people, they can produce high work productivity and that’s why I’m saying the more we can provide in good drugs and good treatment for our population, the better they are and the better our economy.”
According to Glassie’s research, the government spent 6.8 per cent of the total budget in 2012/13 on health.
Spending on health fell to 6.3 per cent in 2013/14, 5.4 per cent in 2014/15, 5.3 per cent in 2015/16, five per cent in 2016/17 and 4.6 per cent in 2017.
The benchmark set for government health expenditure by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is 10 per cent annually.
The health spend in the Cook Islands per GDP was 3.1 per cent in 2012/13, 3.3 per cent in 2013/14, 3.4 per cent in 2014/15, 3.2 per cent in 2015/16, 2.8 per cent in 2016/17 and 2.8 per cent in 2017/18.
The WHO benchmark on health expenditure per GDP is five per cent annually.
“The government should be looking at increasing it (the health budget) by 10-12 per cent. At this stage it’s around about five to six per cent.
The whole purpose of having the funding is so that we can continue to increase our technology and communication and our infrastructure, they need to be maintained on a regular basis,” said Glassie, who served as health minister from 2010 to June, 2018.
In thanking Glassie for his presentation, Health secretary Dr Aumea Herman accepted the ministry had been underfunded.
She said underfunding of the ministry was leading to its workforce experiencing pressure.
“We have been underfunded and unfortunately it’s been a declining trend but that hasn’t been monitored by our ‘powers that be’, so that’s (among) the things we need to pay attention to,” Dr Herman said.
“Hopefully we will reverse that trend as soon as possible and that reversal is already in process.
“Hopefully within the next three years we should at least climb back up to where we are supposed to be.”