Public Healthcare Issues Papua New Guinea

Public Healthcare Issues Papua New Guinea

Did you know that Papua New Guinea (PNG) is only 160 km’s from Australia?  With our near neighbour there are a range of  public healthcare issues that Nurses in Australia will find of Interest! Our global world is shrinking by the day and Nurses need to be cognisant of the health issues that affect those in neighbouring countries  and could influence healthcare here in Australia.

‘More than 160 of the 15,000 people living on the island of Daru, near the PNG–Australia border, have drug-resistant tuberculosis — the highest rate in the world. (1.) This is obviously of significant concern in terms of public health and Tuberculosis is not the only public health issue in Papua.

‘Papua New Guinea gained its independence from Australia in 1975. Life expectancy is shorter and infant mortality is higher than most neighbouring Pacific countries. Maternal mortality is a serious problem in PNG, 53% of births are attended by skilled health personnel. The leading health problems are communicable diseases, with malaria, tuberculosis, diarrhoeal diseases, and acute respiratory disease as major causes of morbidity and mortality. PNG has a generalized HIV epidemic, driven predominantly by heterosexual transmission. Care and treatment for people living with HIV have improved significantly since 2006.  The incidence of malaria is declining as is the proportion of babies born in hospitals with low birth weight. However, health improvement has not kept pace with the country’s economic growth over the past 10 years.

PNG has low numbers of health professionals per head of population: 5.3 nurses/midwives and less than 1 doctor per 10,000 people. Community health workers comprise almost 35% and nursing officers about 30% of the total health workforce, while medical officers and health extension officers(intermediate level workers bridging the gap between doctors and nurses) together comprise less than 8%

There is one provincial hospital in each province including Port Moresby General Hospital in the National Capital District which is also the national referral hospital. There is also one specialist psychiatric hospital run by the government. Four provincial hospitals double as regional hospitals. Currently all hospitals are funded by the government. Core clinical services and subspecialty clinical services are provided by respective medical specialists and specialist nurses on-site.

In principle, a wide range of clinical support programs as well as public health programs are available in these tertiary hospitals. However, many provincial hospitals are experiencing lack of resources while Port Moresby General Hospital is serving a population larger than its capabilities.  Where there are no aid posts, village health volunteers, village birth attendants and Marasin Meri (medicine women) provide basic first aid and health education in villages and homes.

Traditional medicine is an important part of the health system in PNG, and the Government adopted the National Policy on Traditional Medicine in 2007. Did you know that Traditional healers are permitted to practice at village and district level. Traditional healers and medicinal plants have become important health resources in rural areas, particularly where aid posts and health centres have closed’.(2)

Nurses in Australia continue to care for patients with a myriad of conditions and we need to be aware of those issues impacting some of our closest neighbours. The Nurses for Nurses Network  engages with Nurses and Healthcare Organisations in different countries to facilitate Australian Nurses learning how healthcare is delivered in different settings. There are always  positive ‘take home messages’ and suggestions that can be put forward in our own workplaces.  We are very fortunate to be  able to offer a Travel CPD Study tour to Papua New Guinea on a Cruise ship in 2017. The tour Key Concepts of Public Health and Tropical Medicine will be highly informative and interesting with a fabulous keynote speaker Dr Margaret Young , Director and Public Health Physician.   Read More here>>

The  Nurses for Nurses Network provides great information and CPD  on an array of nursing topics  in a range  of easy learning ways including webinars and quizzes on the  latest information that Nurses need to know – remember the Nurses for Nurses Network was created by Australian Nurses for Nurses !

Information Sources:

  1. ABC News ( Accessed 21.08.16)
  2. World Health Organisation (Accessed 21.08.16)

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