"WE'RE NOT WINNING HEALTH BATTLE" SAYS PNG MP

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RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (August 24, 1999 – Post-Courier)---PNG has not been able to reverse its worsening health status over the past 23 years, compared with other countries in the region.

This is in spite of the country having had four medium-term health plans and an injection of an acceptable level of resources into health care, said East New Britain Governor Francis Koimanrea.

Koimanrea told participants to the national health conference that provinces and districts must be responsible for the health status of their people.

"They must also be responsible and accountable for the present deterioration in the health status of their populations,'' he said.

Koimanrea, a health minister in the Wingti Government, said a lot had happened and been achieved in the health sector over a 23 year period, but the health situation had not improved.

"Questions must be asked as to what has gone wrong and whether or not we have developed an acceptable planning strategy,'' he said.

"The health status of our people must always be a priority of our national, provincial and local level governments. Our medium-term health plans in the past 23 years have been too rigid, and, therefore, were not flexible enough to adjust to the challenges of changing needs and circumstances.’’

Koimanrea said the challenge for the conference was to ensure that the first national health plan for the new millennium was dynamic in outlook, so that program strategies could be adjusted over the plan period to accommodate changing health situations and health needs of the entire population.

He said, "I personally like the idea of a single national health plan, with different implementation plans at the national, provincial and district levels.’’

Koimanrea said under the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level governments, all provinces and districts are responsible for providing health services to their people, particularly rural and district health services.

He called on provincial and local governments to encourage participation by all sectors, including the private sector and non-governmental organizations, in health service delivery.

He urged other provinces to look at his province, where partnership and cooperation among health workers at all levels had been achieved.

GRIM PICTURE ON AGE, POPULATION

RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (August 24, 1999 – Post-Courier)---Pneumonia, malaria, meningitis, tuberculosis and pre-natal conditions are the five leading causes of death in PNG.

AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and dengue fever pose additional threats.

This information is contained in the draft National Health Plan 2001-2010 being discussed during this week's National Health conference in Rabaul, East New Britain.

On average, Papua New Guineans can only expect to live up to 52 years before dying.

According to the 1996 national population census, there were four million people in the country.

At an annual growth rate of 2.1 per cent, the population is expected to double within 20 years.

"Forty-two percent of our population is under 15 years of age and only 1.6 percent will reach the age of 65,'' the draft stated.

It said social and economic factors, the poor state of our infrastructure, low staff coverage and performance -- especially in the rural areas -- poor logistic systems and a lack of political and community commitment to health, had been identified as key factors in slowing the improvement of our health status.

It stated that while health promotion and health protection were keys to improving the status of health, these programs lacked support and were poorly managed.

"Basic health services have not reached all of our people and, in particular, basic health services are not delivered to our mothers and children at accepted standards, or acceptable level of quality,'' the report said.

The draft said the recently decentralized system had not matured to the stage where those legally responsible for health functions had made a full commitment and were accountable to the people.

"Logistic support and the capacity to plan and implement at district and hospital levels are a major concern. Other health care providers, such as the churches, NGOs and the private sector, have yet to be fully aligned with national priorities and needs.’’

It said health workforce planning had been done on an adhoc basis and slow re-orientation of training programs and the low capacity of training institutions must be addressed.

"In-service training is not well planned, is poorly coordinated and insufficiently supported.’’

It stated that to complement existing efforts by health workers, partnerships that involve respected community leaders, such as a teacher, pastors, women’s groups and youth organizations, in health related activities, must be developed.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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