PNG needs a tough Health secretary

Letters, Normal

The National

I REFER to the letter “Health secretary must wake up” (The National, Sept 10) by Sprox Walker of Port Moresby.
I agree with the writer’s comments that our health administration must be more innovative and transformative to come up with a simple, straight forward and practical plan to address the many challenges of our health services. 
Since Independence, we have yet to come up with a good, innovative and flexible health care plan. 
The system must be reformed to address the same problems faced by successive health administrations over the years.
I have a partial answer to the writer’s question as to why the good health secretary cannot tell the people of PNG why our Government is incapable of providing doctors for the rural people. 
This is because he would be seen as making a politically incorrect statement against his employer. 
That was how his predecessors must have all felt.
The health administrator is part of the whole political and bureaucratic system where what is being said and planned for does not always auger well with practical realities of what’s to be done in the field.
There is always money in the health budget. 
It just lacks good strategic management of the whole system to see that a good level of health care treatment regime filters down to rural PNG. 
It is all a matter of planning priorities. 
It needs a no-nonsense, proactive administrator to ensure all needy areas are well addressed. 
Another major problem to add to the health burden is the fact that there is no real political will from the Government to fully support the Health Minister and secretary to fix our problems. 
Like our education system, the Prime Minister and senior MPs only look to overseas how they fix their health problems.
Unfortunately, they will misuse and waste taxpayers’ money by seeking medical treatment overseas.
What they are telling us is that they have no trust and confidence in our own doctors and hospitals.
Additionally, many good doctors have established themselves in urban centres. 
They are comfortable and are not prepared to work in harsh conditions in rural PNG for many reasons.
One major reason is that general conditions of service for health workers at the various levels are not good enough to attract them to be fully committed for work in the bush. 
The health secretary can fix this by making the pay and allowances attractive to lure these health workers to work in rural areas. 
The health secretary and minister must act now to fund health care-treatment solutions.
First, they must get the NEC to approve former health minister, Sir Peter Barter’s idea to bring in Cuban doctors to augment our junior health workers and post them all over rural PNG.
Second, they must come up with an attractive remuneration three-year package for all rural-based health workers.
Third, they must give priority to upgrade all rural health care facilities, including the steady and reliable delivery of medicinal drugs. 
Fourth, implement a simple, practical and innovative action plan. 
This must be done immediately and continuously reviewed and systematically implemented annually within our MTDS and NSP to 2050. 
Above all, let’s bring the Cuban doctors here and see what they can do for rural PNG.
Sir Peter had a great idea but the PM and Parliament did not have the political guts to back this innovative plan. 
Over to you, Sasa Zibe, and we hope to see a big change in our healthcare system.


Reginald Renagi
Port Moresby