ADDRESSING district administrators and district health managers at a workshop in Madang this week, Health secretary Dr Clement Malau said: “The Government must set up and improve basic services like health and education (in Hela) before it can run its own affairs as a province after 2012.
“Health and education are the basics of any development and the Government must prepare to have the basics in place first. If we do not address health and education woes in Hela, then it’s going to be a problem.”
We agree entirely with Dr Malau that Hela, and for that matter its sister new province, Jiwaka, need quality and properly functioning services in health and education.
But we are at a loss as to who or what represents this nameless “Government” which Dr Malau wants to fix up health and education woes of the two new provinces.
We were always of the opinion that Dr Malau, as head of the Health Department, is an important part of the public services machinery of the State of Papua New Guinea.
He is mandated under the Constitution and by-laws of PNG as the person who is responsible for managing the policies, programmes and projects of the Government pertaining to the health matters in this country.
He is the principle adviser to the Health Minister and through the minister to the National Executive Council on matters of health.
The secretary represents the country to the world on health related issues. That being the case, we are quite certain that Dr Malau is himself and intrinsic part of the “Government” he calls upon to fix the health and education problems of Hela.
He is telling himself, quite loudly and before an audience, what he must do. That is rather silly and quite embarrassing.
The good secretary should actually be telling the district administrators and health managers what the Health Department is or is not doing in the districts, not just the new provinces but in all the districts.
He should be announcing programmes and policy initiatives. He should be telling the participants whether or not the 10-year health plan is being implemented in the provinces, whether or not it is on track and if not to point out where the bottlenecks are.
In the case of Hela and perhaps Jiwaka, now the provinces have been named there must be health task forces in place named by the Health Department to assist in setting the health infrastructure of the province.
Dr Malau cannot now turn around and tell district and health managers that “the Government” ought to do this or that.
There is no other government to point fingers at. He IS the Government where matters of health are concerned.
For far too long we have had to listen to department heads and representatives of Government, including ministers call upon “the Government” to do something.
This just won’t do.
They are the Government.
If there exists problems which impede the delivery of services, that is an entirely different proposition.
In such instances, it behooves government representatives to spell out where the problem areas are.
In Dr Malau’s case, we would like to know what programmes his department has got for Hela and Jiwaka.
We would like to know whether such plans are practical, whether there are resources for them and how the executive government – this is the Cabinet or National Executive Council – has responded to his proposals.
That is the kind of information that ought to be going out to managers out in the districts.
Alternatively, the Health Department ought to have seized the opportunity offered by having so many health and district managers in one place to spell out where problem areas are in the delivery of health services to the rural population of the country.
This is not to suggest that the Health Department is devoid of health policies or programmes. Despite limited resources key departments like Health perform as well as they can under the circumstances.
What we take issue with is having senior Government officials like Dr Malau and others go about telling the public that a nameless “Government” ought to do certain things which it is not doing.
We should like to dissuade that for they reveal their own lack of appreciation for their place in the national scheme of things and indeed who they represent to the people.