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Papua New Guinea

Hela health authority board sworn-in

The Hela community witnessed on Tuesday the swearing in of the Hela Provincial Health Authority (PHA) Board for a second term. Oil Search Managing Director Peter Botten will stay on as chair.

During its first term, the Board secured over K61 million from donors for improved health with well over half of this funding from one key donor – Oil Search.

“This seems like a lot of money,” Botten said, “but there was and continues to be a lot to do.”

“In 2016 the new PHA was still struggling to establish a new provincial hospital which in 2015 only had only one doctor, a handful of health workers, was without an executive team and completely lacked corporate human resource and financial management capacity.

“It required a safe kitchen and a well-functioning pharmacy and was unable to provide many services such as dentistry, safe x-rays and a blood bank. In addition, most of the hospital’s infrastructure had been untouched for decades and was very unsafe for patients and staff.

“The challenge intensified with the launch of the PHA in 2016 where we faced lagging rural health indicators and many of the same problems we found at the hospital.”

Botten said one of the first priorities in 2016 was to start with the one service that was helping over 2000 people per month – the Tari Hospital, where there was an urgent need to improve crumbling infrastructure. This included upgrading unsafe electricity, installing reliable water supplies and building an accident and emergency ward and neonatal care unit. The board also prioritised a kitchen mess to safely feed patients and a new multi-storey housing complex to attract health workers to remote Hela Province.

The PHA opened a new administration office to support the efficient running of the PHA and oversaw significant refurbishments to the medical, TB and maternity wards. It also supported new clinical and corporate management systems, hired 12 doctors and hundreds of new staff, provided training for the first time in decades and upgraded all aspects of service delivery.

“I am amazed at the tremendous change that has occurred over three years,” said Deputy Board Chair Reverend Olene Yawai at the swearing-in ceremony. “Today, so many buildings are either open for our people or nearing completion to be opened by the end of the year.

“Health services are rapidly improving before our eyes. It is a great gift and we are grateful for it.”

The Board witnessed the signing of new church health agreements. This will see, for the first time in PNG, church and government health services across the province delivered under one budget against key performance indicators such as increased immunisation rates, more supervised delivery and more people accessing district health services.

For CEO James Kintwa, the massive progress with the PHA comes down to partnership.

“There is no way that the PHA alone could have supported what was required to deliver safe and quality services to the people of Hela. We thank the provincial and national government, the Australian government, churches and NGOs and companies like Santos and ExxonMobil.

“I would like to make particular mention of Peter Botten and Oil Search, which has put over PGK36 million into the PHA since 2016 and helped to leverage over PGK25 million from other partners.”

Good governance has also been essential. Dr Kintwa commended Botten’s leadership and said everyone has learned a lot from how the private sector manages resources.

“This has meant that every single toea is spent on key priorities,” he said.

As it prepares to enter its second term, the Board will turn its focus to improving rural health indicators. It has already progressed with 90 percent coverage of polio immunisation, better outreach services and new capital works projects, including the construction of maternity wings in four district health centres and the refurbishment of the Koroba District Hospital.

“It is essential that every man, woman and child in Hela, no matter where they live, can access quality health care,” said board chairman Peter Botten.

“They deserve nothing less. Our job as a Board is to ensure this happens.”
(PHA Board with Hela PHA staff)

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