Church Hospital Fund Idea Causes Controversy

4.1.2013
Words by Paul Fontaine
An idea introduced by the Bishop of Iceland for the church to create a fund for the national hospital has evoked a strong reaction from the chairperson of parliament's Welfare Committee.

Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir recently introduced the idea that the church establish a special fund for the national hospital to be able to buy medical tech. While the bishop contends that her idea has received a positive response, chairperson of parliament's Welfare Committee Sigríður Ingibjörg Ingadóttir considers the idea strange, and did not mince words in her response.

"Is it natural that a public institution like the national church, which considers itself to be badly underfunded ... would want to create such a fund when it accepts payment from the state that could have otherwise bought the medical tech or paid down the debt?," she asked on national radio.

Sigríður pointed out that during parliamentary budget talks, the church pressured the government for more funding, and was eventually awarded tens of millions of krónur. In 2009, the church received over 2.6 billion ISK in state funding, with the bishop's salary alone equaling over 1 million ISK per month.

However, Rev. Birgir Ásgeirsson told Vísir that the church's finances have no connection with the fund. Money would be raised from the general public and kept by the church, to be then given to the hospital, he contends. The funding the church gets would not have any part in the proposed hospital fund.

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