A lack of road transport means the nearest health facility may take hours or even days to reach. This is challenging enough for healthy people, but when a person is sick, pregnant or very young or old, access to these services can be impossible.
So instead of requiring communities to come to health centres, the Hela Provincial Health Authority (Hela PHA), with support from Oil Search Foundation (OSF), is bringing the health clinics to them through an integrated health patrol.
With the use of a helicopter, the health patrol reached 18 remote communities offering services including immunisation, family planning, checks for pregnant women and babies, outpatient clinics and COVID-19 awareness.
“I am so happy my child received her immunisation right here in our village,” said Sarah Kele, a mother from Wanikipa village. “For most of us mothers, when our children are sick or are due for their next immunisation shot, we make sacrifices and most times, even risking our lives to get them the help they need. This means walking for two or more days in the thick bushes and over rugged mountains just to get to an aid post for treatment.”
Anthon Wane, a father from Yana village, shared that his son was constantly coughing and was rapidly losing weight. “I could not walk to the nearest aid post to get help for him because I am an asthmatic patient, and to get to there would mean walking for three to four days in the thick bush. I lost hope and feared the worst for my son. When I heard the helicopter arrive in our village, I carried my son and cried with excitement because I knew he would get the help he needed.”
CEO Hela PHA, Dr James Kintwa, said: “This patrol is very important because it ensures basic health services reached those that are unable to access them. We are grateful to our partners like OSF who were able to help us reach the unreached. A wonderful outcome for both partners.”
(An outpatient check conducted during a health patrol)