No nation in the world has conquered health and its issues. Even the developed world struggle. We’re no exception and we do have our own peculiar issues. A nation’s Health is its Wealth and we will do all that’s necessary to help improve it as it’s any government’s social contract with its people. We are duty bound to help you all but we are also limited by so many obstacles and funding is one of them. This Government is prioritizing health like never before and we hope to see a lot more improvement in this sector. There’s so much hope and therein lies my problem. There’s no quick fix and it’ll take years but we’ll try make a start. – Dr. Tom Lino.
The Minister for Health, Hon. Dr. Tom Lino has highlighted what the people of Papua New Guinea should be expecting in HEALTH in the NEXT THREE MONTHS.
WHAT PAPUA NEW GUINEA SHOULD EXPECT EXPECT IN HEALTH THIS YEAR.
By Hon. Dr Tom Lino | Wabag MP & Health Minister | Happy 47th Independence PNG!
Nations have taken centuries to develop. We’ve barely made a start but that’s not an excuse. We can do better.
Firstly, we thank God for a beautiful country that is so full of promise. I also thank him for this opportunity to serve His people in this very important social sector. I thank the good Prime Minister Hon James Marape and his Pangu Party for gracing me with this opportunity.
No nation in the world has conquered health and its issues. Even the developed world struggle. We’re no exception and we do have our own peculiar issues.
Currently, we’re faced with so many issues but the most important of them will be mentioned here together with a few suggestions on how we plan to address them.
1) Acute Shortage of Health Workers
2) Health Infrastructure Capacity Issues
3) Drug Supplies and Procurement Issues
4) Outdated Health Laws
5) Health Governance structures ( PHAs)
6) Emergence of Cancer and Lifestyle Diseases (Dual Disease Burden)
There is no quick fix solutions to these issues but we’ll make a start here. Following is a brief note on how we plan to address these issues and is subject to a lot more consultations from our development partners and experts within this sector as we progress.
1) ACUTE SHORTAGE OF HEALTH WORKERS
To start let me give you some preview of the nature of shortfall. The WHO accepted ratio of health workers to population is 4/1000. In 2011, we had a 2.7/1000 but declined to 0.97/1000 in 2018. We’ll do next review when national census is done. We have about 11,000 workers now and this number needs to go up to 23,000 by 2030 as per our health plan. There’s a big gap that needs to be filled in 7 years.
Briefly, we’ll start by calculating the output from our current health institutions against the attrition rate from retirements or people leaving the health sector etc.
In the short term, we already have 5000 positions that need to filled. Couple of reasons for the delay but one solution would be the Devolution of Recruitment Powers from DPM to the Health Department.
It’s quite necessary at the moment and I have already discussed this with my colleague Minister. The other will be the recruitment of health workers from overseas from competent and compatible health systems.
The long-term solution will be to increase capacity at our existing health institutions. One will be the Stand-alone Medical University and hopefully we also build a couple more to cater for our population growth, apart from increasing capacity at our current institutions.
HEALTH INDICES IMPROVE WHEN YOU INCREASE NUMBERS OF HEALTH WORKERS according to numerous studies and quite established in medical literature now.
2) HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE
Our population growth has outgrown our capacity to look after them. Not only capacity, most have deteriorated over time and are in dire need of revitalization.
We’ll do a COMPLETE AUDIT and present this report to Government with a full scope and costings. PM Marape has already made commitments to ensure this nation has new hospitals in all 21 provinces and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and we plan to commence on 4 ASAP.
They will be Hela; SHP; Central and Kimbe which the NEC has approved already. Gulf Province will be one in the horizon. PM Marape’s vision is to see all health facilities within an hour’s walk or via motorized transport and that will require a comprehensive infrastructure recapitalization program.
3) DRUG SUPPLIES AND PROCUREMENT
We have issues with supply and quality. We’re doing a comprehensive consultation to come up with different structural arrangements. One such approach would be the creation of a Drug Supplies and Procurement Authority as recommended by PAC.
It will have appropriate development agencies on the board to provide Transparency and Accountability. We’ll also explore other options. A Drug Sampling and Quality Assurance lab will be a necessary component of this restructure.
4) REVIEW OF LAWS AND HEALTH STRUCTURE
We need an overarching Health Administration Act that encompasses all the rest of the Acts administered by Health Department. Now they’re functioning as autonomous laws with no congruence and alignment. Something we hope to implement with the help of World Bank and discussions are already on foot.
5) CANCER AND LIFESTYLE DISEASE
Cancer is a lifestyle disease just like Diabetes and Heart Disease. The incidence of lifestyle disease is on the rise giving rise to the dual disease burden pattern in this country.
Cancer management is multi-modal. It basically means the management requires very different modes of treatment and approaches. Radiotherapy is just one form of treatment.
There are others like surgery; chemotherapy; Immunotherapy and all others including support care. I will be traveling the coming week to Vienna with some staff to sign the Contract for Acquisition of Radioactive substances that will be used in Radiotherapy.
For better prognosis, early detection and diagnosis is very important. That’s why, the construction of Surveillance and Screening Institute will be recommended to the Government.
We look to a full functioning cancer unit by 2023 in both PMGH and Angau hospitals. Whilst awaiting this, PM Marape will be establishing a fund to assist people who need treatment overseas.
The Marape-Rosso government will establish twining arrangements with a couple hospitals in Singapore; Australia and Manila and strict requirements will be placed for people who want to access this fund.
A nation’s Health is its Wealth and we will do all that’s necessary to help improve it as it’s any government’s social contract with its people.
We are duty bound to help you all but we are also limited by so many obstacles and funding is one of them.
This Government is prioritizing health like never before and we hope to see a lot more improvement in this sector.
There’s so much hope and therein lies my problem. There’s no quick fix and it’ll take years but we’ll try make a start.