Invest in primary healthcare


PROVIDING proper medical care is the primary responsibility of the Government.
The Government should ensure that medical equipment in hospitals and clinics are the best to deal for the health of the people.
Investing in health is investing in people, which is essential for sustainable long-term development outcomes.
Failing to invest in health leads to poor health outcomes and has a profound economic impact, resulting in high costs for Papua New Guinea.
The message to our leaders by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has always been to invest in primary healthcare as the smartest first step towards universal health coverage, also known as “health for all”.
Primary healthcare is key to solving the health challenges facing PNG.
Primary healthcare is about caring for people and helping them improve their health, rather than treating a single disease or condition.
It includes a range of health services such as screening and treatment for common diseases, preventative care such as vaccination and health information, and treatment for common and non-serious ailments such as colds.
It covers rehabilitation and care at the end of life as well.
Primary healthcare means care closer to home and intervening early to prevent many illnesses from becoming serious.
Strong primary healthcare reduces demand on hospitals.
It includes community-based solutions to tackle issues such as mental health.
A robust primary healthcare system works with other sectors to create healthier environments and prevent injuries and illness.
The healthcare service delivery is provided by a combination of government, private facilities and church facilities – the majority of which are located in urban and is funded by a combination of government tax revenues, donors, and the user.
For PNG, we have a crises in the health system.
Our health systems face tough and complex challenges, in part derived from new pressures such as ageing populations, growing prevalence of chronic illnesses including the procurement and distribution of medical supplies.
And Covid-19 is not helping at all.
Health indicators in PNG are poor, with infant mortality rate at 48 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012 and maternal mortality rate at 230 per 100,000 live births some 10 years ago.
We do not expect any improvement to this statistics.
This week, Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika lashed at the country’s failing health system, following the death of a National Court judge last month at the Port Moresby General Hospital.
“Our people need to know that they have the right to demand the best in medical care in the world today and their demands must be met by the Government,” he said.
“The medical equipment in our public health hospitals and clinics need to be the best to cater for the health of our people.
“The health of an individual is a matter for him or her but if he decides to go to the hospital, the matter becomes an issue for the Government and the healthcare workers.”
We concur with Sir Gibbs that in any country in the world, the public hospitals are the ones which should be well equipped with all modern up-to-date state of the art medical equipment.
One main problem hindering the health sector’s development in PNG is that there simply are not enough medical professionals in the country.
There is no better way of saying this then in the words of the chief justice: “We have well-trained doctors and nursing officers. Give them the most attractive salary packages and the tools to look after our people.”