Health worker gap outlined

Papua New Guinea’s official population estimate varies between 9 and 11 million considering the last national census was conducted in 2011.

Health Minister, Dr Lino Tom, expressed concern that PNG’s population growth is exceeding the government’s ability to cater to its citizens.

The gap between health workers and the populace keeps widening, with one doctor catering to 20,000 people.

However, if we are to go by the United Nation’s population estimate of 15 to 17 million, the ratio would be 1 health worker to 30,000 people.

“That’s why when I became the Health Minister, with the assistance of the Prime Minister, we are trying to bridge this gap,” he stated.

“We are putting some measures in place but the first thing we are doing – you know we can talk but money drives all policies – I have asked the Marape-Rosso government to increase the number of health workforce in the country, put more budget so we can take up these issues of funding new structures.

“In the 2023 budget, we asked for K356 million but they put K121 million. At least we have reached the halfway mark.”

The Health Minister said the K121 million funding was directly made available to provincial health authorities, not sent to the Department of Health for disbursement.

“So now my challenge is to the CEO, one key performance indicator that I will look at to assess your work in your respective province, is when I see all the district and rural health facilities open.”

Dr Tom said level 5 and 6 health facilities, such as the newly-opened East Sepik Provincial Hospital, are meant to treat severe illnesses only, not flu, malaria or pneumonia.

“My challenge to PHAs, together with the World Health Organisation, we have enacted a new reform to audit your structures,” he revealed.

“If we see that there are too many drivers in here, it means that you have not prioritised your positions. If we see that you have too many cleaners, or too many office clerks, that would mean that you are not doing your job.

“The administration must be lean and mean. We must remove the fat from the administration and send it out to the districts so that the district health facilities can open.

“You health workers know that the biggest and greatest impact is held at the primary healthcare level. Not tertiary healthcare level but primary, such as vaccination outreach programs and family planning.”

Loop Author