Sunday, November 3, 2013

Doctors predict looming health crisis

THE Papua New Guinea Medical Society predicts a massive health crisis is at our doorsteps with most hospitals and health centres to be forced to close in the next few years due to no staff available.
This will be so if the government does not inject huge money and resources in health worker training. 
The society points out that bringing in Filipino nurses or Cuban doctors will not solve the problem.
A letter to Post-Courier by the society’s president, Professor Nakapi Tefuarani, treasurer Professor Glen Mola and secretary Linda Tamsen, states serious implications that put the country’s health services in danger of closing.
The society pointed out that there is a serious shortage of health workers of all cadres, and the average age of nurses, midwives and community health workers is 45-50 years. This means that most of our nurses and CHWs will retire in the next few years leaving our health services with no staff. 
A 2008 human resource forum and 2011 World Bank report on human resources in PNG health sector described the situation as a health manpower emergency.
This year the government has brought former Health and Education Secretary and diplomat Sir Paul Songo back from retirement to assist in addressing this emergency. 
At the same time, the government has recommended that the school of medicine and health dciences at the University of PNG triple intakes so that the annual graduand numbers of doctors and other health support professionals are increased. 
“With all these reports and hype about the critical emergency of health worker manpower shortages, one would think that the government is putting extra money into health worker training. Not so,” the letter reads.
In the 2013 budgetary allocation for CHW, training went down from an insufficient K3.383 million to K2.148 million, a drop of 37 per cent. In PNG, CHW training is carried out by 13 church agency institutions. 
The society point out that the government is demanding that the school of medicine and health sciences train more doctors and health professionals, but is only prepared to contribute 10 per cent of the operational funds required. 
For more than 20 years the school has been left scrounging and begging donor partners for the other 90 per cent of the operational funds necessary to do the job of training doctors and health professionals for the country. 
There is only sufficient money of 10 per cent of operational expenses to run the current medical school. 
There is the money to start up the government’s much talked about new medical school in the Highlands.
The letter even states that fixing Port Moresby General Hospital does not ‘fix up’ the hospital.
“We need more health workers to cope with the increasing numbers of patients that we have to cope with in our health facilities. 
Health facility staff establishments date from the 1980s when our population was three to four million. These health workers need to be trained and training requires 
resources.

Post Courier