Partnership Projects to Improve Healthcare for Remote Communities
Story Dr Varghese Philip, Godfrey Sim and Mandy Glass. Photos LuAnne Cadd
West Sepik and Enga – Two Projects already up and running
Many remote communities have limited or no access to healthcare resulting in higher mortality rates, higher disease burden, lost productivity and a blighted future. MAF has been working in Papua New Guinea for the past 67 years serving these remote communities and is expanding MAF’s capability and experience in PNG to provide healthcare access. One of MAF PNG’s three strategic key aims is to increase effectiveness of our operation through intentional and strategic partnerships. Therefore, in 2018, MAF PNG has already launched two projects which are having a great transformational impact. The projects have been initiated by MAF PNG’s Strategic Development Manager Dr Varghese Philip and Church and Community Liaison Manager Godfrey Sim.
After talks with the West Sepik Provincial Government and Health Authority, MAF is now flying health teams into the four West Sepik districts on a subsidised basis. Their rural health director is someone we are really excited to be working with and we pray that their vision and the necessary resources will remain strong, to address some of the country’s worst rural health challenges.
Similarly, MAF is bi-weekly flying Enga Baptist Health workers from the Kompiam District Hospital into remote clinic locations for short ‘camps’, as organised by Dr David Mills, Medical Superintendent of the Enga Baptist Health Services. Again addressing immunisation, maternal and neo-natal, TB, and other serious areas of primary and secondary health.
Western Province – The HARC Project yet to be launched
The third and biggest project is a funded one that will see the partnering of multiple agencies in delivering vital health care and intervention in the Western Province. This is called HARC, Health Access for Rural Communities, and is to support Primary Health Care (PHC) in remote communities through regular medical camps and a skilled medical team. Rather than patients having to make the long and arduous trip to a hospital, the proposal is for highly skilled medical teams to visit the remote locations.
The project will work with other providers in the province such as hospitals, church agencies (ECPNG, Catholic Church), World Vision, Australian Doctors International (ADI), Provincial Government, Provincial Health Authority and others. MAF’s partner Rural Airstrip Agency’s capability to maintain and restore airstrips in Western Province will create perfect synergy in successfully implementing this project.
The HARC project will see medical and dental teams visit and set up camps for two to three days at each of the airstrips. The team will consist of a physician, a dentist/dental assistant, a nurse/community health worker, an optometrist, and a community liaison person/communicator. Two such core teams will be created to increase the coverage across the province. Each team will fly to different destinations every week to conduct dental clinics, promote oral health, antenatal checks, identify high-risk pregnancies, conduct immunisation and general clinics, basic lab tests, ultrasonography, health education and awareness of social issues.
In addition, medevacs will be organised for patients needing emergency care in a higher medical facility.
In the initial pilot phase of 18 months, starting in January 2019, MAF anticipates ‘flying medical teams’ covering 48 airstrips, once every 4 months. Each team will cover two airstrips per week. The choice of airstrips for the medical camps will be made in consultation with the partner organisations like ECPNG, the Catholic Health Services and the Provincial Health Authority.
MAF International has already placed the order for a new Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft for the HARC project.
On the legal side, HARC is being set up as a Charitable Trust.
Since MAF has an existing base at Rumginae/Kiunga, the HARC project office will be located at Kiunga. Over the next 18 months, the project office will also place a team at Balimo depending on the logistics support that becomes available at Balimo.
Office space and Staff housing will be constructed at Kiunga. We are still working on the land to set up these facilities.
There is a lot more work to put in with organisational governance and structure, partnership agreements, infrastructure development, recruiting and equipping. The flying will be the ‘easy bit’ comparably, once pilots and planes are available.