THE FATE of £20,000 worth of vital medical supplies earmarked for Poland hangs in the balance. until the Polish government decides if it is prepared to accept the supplies "duty free".
Otherwise the bottles of antibiotics, syringes and other vital supplies, now lying in a warehouse in England, will be diverted to Uganda, where there is a similar need for medicines.
The organisor of the cargo of supplies, Fr Patrick O'Mahony, who is working in conjunction with the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development told the Herald that it was unbelievable that the government should want to charge tax on such vital medical supplies:`Itis working against the interests of its own people," he said.
The Polish government, however, looks likely to impose a crippling tax on all medical supplies sent from abroad to the free trade union, Solidarity, or to the Catholic Church.
It is also insisting that all such supplies should be directed through government monitored channels.
Poland's health services are in a critical situation. Reports have told of ureaucratic inefficiency and lack of elementary hygiene as well as stories of amputated limbs being thrown on rubbish dumps.
An art icle in this week's new Times Health Supplement, in almost every respect Poland is "at the bottom of Europe's 'league table' Of hospital and medical statistics, including the ratio of hospital beds to doctors and a high level of infant mortalit."
Fr O'Nlahony, who is priest of the Our Lady of The Wayside parish, at Shirley, Birmingham, told the Herald that he would not be able to raise more funds to offset the government tax.
The CAFOD organisation, however. has been in touch with the Polish Conference of bishop's who are in a position to put pressure on the authorities.
If the government agrees CAFOD will pay the costs of freight.