In partnership with the National Department of Health, Australia is supporting Catholic Church Health Services (CCHS) and Anglicare to widen the health services offered at standalone sexual and reproductive health clinics across 18 provinces.
This is a true partnership, with Australia funding staff salaries and operations of facilities, PNG Government paying for medicines and the Catholic Church Health Services providing facilities.
Graham Apian is the project manager at CCHS who is overseeing the integration process at the organisation’s 22 health clinics across Papua New Guinea.
“Integration involves combining HIV clinics with primary health care clinics, so that people just visit one place, and no longer need to visit separate clinics for health care. For example, a pregnant woman with HIV should only need to go to one clinic, not two, for her needs,” said Apian.
The Begabari Clinic in Port Moresby is one of two health facilities run by Anglicare that is expanding its focus to provide a broader suite of services. The busy clinic serves the National Capital District and neighbouring Central Province, and treats around 1,100 people living with HIV, with over 200 new patients each year.
While the clinic will continue to offer HIV and STI testing and treatment, it will also offer a range of other health services, such as antenatal care, child immunisation, family planning and tuberculosis and malaria testing.
Sr Josepha Tametalong is the clinical specialist at Begabari and is pleased the clinic will be providing integrated health care.
“Mothers and children especially, and the general population, will now have a government recognised and accredited primary health care service, as this clinic will be upgraded to a Grade 3 clinic,” said Sr Josepha.
Many church and non-governmental organisations set up sexual and reproductive health clinics in Papua New Guinea in response to the country’s HIV and AIDS crisis. The Director of Anglicare PNG, Heni Meke, says it is time these specialist clinics provided a more integrated service to patients.
“Our clinics and health centres want to offer a ‘one stop shop’ service,” said Ms Meke. “These clinics are on the frontline of community health needs, where nurses and community health workers assess patients before they are referred to larger health facilities and hospitals.”
Integrating health services is expected to be more convenient for communities, and also provide improved health care and value-for-money for Provincial Health Authorities and the National Department of Health.
Anglicare’s Begabari clinic in Port Moresby and Newtown clinic in Mt Hagen are both currently being assessed to become government-accredited primary health care providers.
“We are looking forward to meeting government regulations, as this is very important to get proper access to other government services and sustainable funding,” explained Ms Meke from Anglicare. “We also need our own facility code so that we can be able to get our medical supplies from the national area medical store.”
In addition to providing more holistic services to patients, integration will also provide more comprehensive health data to the government in order to better target services to community needs.
“Previously we only fed HIV/AIDS and other STI statistics to the National Health Information System, but with the integration of other services, we are able to send health data on other diseases and infections that our nurses and community health workers attend to,” said Ms Meke.
In preparation for the delivery of integrated primary health care, organisations have begun training clinic health workers. Mentor training is being rolled out to build up a cadre of Papua New Guinean health workers who can not only deliver high quality services, but also mentor colleagues to improve their STI, HIV and sexual and reproductive health skills.
Sr Julie Bamban is a senior nurse at the CCHS-run St Joseph Freinademetz clinic in Port Moresby and participated in mentor training in 2017. The training covered integrated health clinic processes and procedures, and how to monitor the progress of health professionals delivering integrated health care.
“It may take a bit more time for those processes and procedures to reach the clinics here in PNG, but realising that such innovations exist is a motivation,” said Sr Julie. “The training really helped me understand in detail why I continue to do what I am doing.”
Since the training, Sr Julie has been holding mentoring sessions once a week with other nurses at the St Joseph Freinademetz clinic.
“I think there is a lot of progress for me as an individual and I am happy my other colleagues are grateful and adhering to the support I am offering.”
(Sr Julie Bamban stands in front of antiretroviral medication at the CCHS-run St Joseph Freinademetz clinic in Port Moresby)