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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 4) - The process for payment for doctors’ accommodation will be improved, and all outstanding rent debts will be paid by next Friday.

This is one of the assurances given by the officials from Health and Personnel Management departments and sealed in a memorandum of understanding they signed with the National Doctors Association that got the doctors back to work yesterday afternoon. The agreement was signed in the gardens of Port Moresby General Hospital at lunchtime.

Doctors at the Port Moresby General Hospital spent all day on Tuesday in a sit-in protest over three main issues affecting doctors - housing, doctors’ contracts and positions for specialist doctors.

In housing, apart from settling rental housing arrears by the close of business on January 8, the Health Department has agreed to complete necessary measures for outsourcing management of doctors’ housing rental in major urban centers by April 2; ensure competent staff manage the rentals of doctors’ housing by close of business yesterday; and work with the association and other stakeholders to plan long term solution of doctors’ and other health workers’ housing needs through improved institutional housing and opportunities for home ownership.

On acting positions, with collaboration DPM will identify positions for re-designation and internal advertisement by close of business tomorrow; DPM to recruit staff to substantive positions by April 14; DPM and the Finance Department to create 36 new positions for specialist medical officers and to be approved by April 5; and DPM to advertise positions and officers to be recruited to new positions per this agreement.

On the issue of doctors’ contracts, there will be contracts offered to all doctors whose contracts have expired or who are not on contract by January 16.

Late Tuesday afternoon, following a day of meetings outside the hospital, the disputing parties came to an agreement on what needed to be done on the issues raised, but the doctors needed to have an agreement signed before they could return to work.

Personnel Management and the Health Department officials worked on the deal at night, preparing it for its signing yesterday. When the Post-Courier checked on the protesting doctors yesterday, only half of them were around to witness the signing of the agreement. Many had obviously returned to work.

Signatories to the agreement were Health Secretary Dr. Nicholas Mann, association president Dr. Kauga Pomat and DPM deputy secretary policy John Kali.

Both Health Secretary Mann and Health Minister Sir Peter Barter expressed satisfaction at different times over the manner in which the dispute was resolved. Sir Peter described it as a productive time for all parties, and praised them for working together to avoid a strike and further industrial problems.

Meanwhile, lawyer acting on the association’s behalf Felix Kange said at 2 p.m. the parties would return to court to convert the pact into a consent order and have the court injunction taken out against the doctors by the Health Department withdrawn.

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