Strategic Partnerships to Provide Better Health Care for Remote Communities
Story by Mandy Glass. Photos by Dr Simon Ganal

Having access to a doctor or medical facility in times of pain, injury or during pregnancy isn’t something many people can take for granted here in Papua New Guinea. Did you enjoyed last week’s story on the Kompiam health patrol to Malaumanda.

Strategic Partnership. Part 1/3: Enga Baptist Health Services, Kompiam

Part 2 of the series will take you to Morobe Province. MAF facilitated the very first health patrol for the team of the Lutheran Etep Rural Hospital to Sapmanga, a very remote village in the Finisterre Mountains, where the team not only helped many people with their pain and administered vaccinations but also detected a first Covid case.
Be encouraged by the following story as you “fly to Sapmanga joining the team there.”

PART 2: Health Patrol to Sapmanga

The last week of April 2021 saw the launch of a renewed partnership with the Lutheran Health Services in Morobe Province and with it, we are hoping to establish another regular aerial health patrol project out of Wasu. Wasu is the airstrip connecting the Etep Rural Hospital which is nestled uphill from Wasu airstrip and serving a population of 150,000 people in the area.
“We are all excited and ‘loaded’ for the first MAF-supported Health Patrol,” stated Dr Simon Ganal, Medical Officer at Etep Rural Hospital. “From my perspective, Sapmanga is one of the very best locations to start this project to improve primary health care in one of the most rural parts of Morobe and PNG.”

Brad Venter, one of the pilots, flew this first of the Morobe clinic patrols on 26 April 2021. He shared, “This has been a work in progress with Dr Simon Ganal and the Lutheran hospital in Etep for over a year. We flew a team of 7 health workers, including Simon, to Sapmanga where they will work in the community to deal with medical cases, do health training and vaccinations.”
“They will also get an idea of the overall medical situation to help with planning for transfers of critical medical cases to the Etep hospital before they become medevacs,” continued Brad. “This is also a great opportunity to share the gospel message in the community!”

Dr Simon lead a team consisting of a nursing officer and a midwife, two Health Extension Officers who are trained to deliver medical and administrative health care in rural areas, a dentist, and a Residential Medical Officer.

The team, in cooperation with five local Community Health Workers, were able to do 136 medical consultations, including antenatal care, coughs and other respiratory illnesses, skin diseases, pelvic inflammatory diseases, sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis. During the clinics, the first Covid-19 case was detected via antigene testing.

Dr Simon and his team also did five practical procedures and 23 immunisations. Besides that, they gave health awareness on seven different topics: cancer & screening, Covid-19, dental hygiene, family planning, malaria, tuberculosis, general hygiene and lifestyle, and estimate that about 200 people attended to the health education.

Flying back to Wasu after 3 days of health clinics and awareness at Sapmanga, two critically ill patients were also airlifted for further treatment at the Etep Hospital.

Excitement, motivation and a vision to continue

“After returning to Etep Rural Hospital, we were filled with excitement, motivation and a lot more stories to tell,” summarised Dr Simon.
“Outreaches are always special to us health workers,” he continued. “The conditions are raw and difficult, but you can’t find more medically sensible places to be. It motivates us to keep going after experiencing the needs and struggles at remote communities and at the same time being blessed by the hospitality and wonderful people out there.
“We hope that with this health patrol to Sapmanga we are planting a seed. A seed, that will steadily grow, and bring out an endless amount of fruits, so more seeds will drop down and grow plants on their own. We dream about a comprehensive program, which allows us to provide frequent access to provide health care for remote communities and so to cooperate more frequently and more intentionally with the various aid posts and health centres in our catchment area. By this, we can develop a high-quality primary health care, which leads to a real game-changing drift in the health sector.”

MAF’s part and partnerships

Each year in Papua New Guinea, MAF aircraft bring hope, healing, and physical and spiritual transformation through compassionate medical evacuation flights that serve the individuals and communities who live around the more than 150 airstrips MAF serves. Accomplishing this vision requires a team and strong partnerships; doctors, nurses, pilots, ground operations, flight operations, finance, IT, engineers, as well as individuals and organisations to help fund such flights.

To continue health patrol flights to more remote places in the Morobe Province would support preventive care to reduce the number of “emergency” cases and increase the overall health of communities through regular health surveillance. This is a proven concept and already well established with partnerships MAF has with the Enga Baptist Health Services out of Kompiam and the Aerial Health Patrol flights under the Sustainable Development Program Ltd out of Balimo in Western Province.

“This particular patrol to Sapmanga also exemplifies one of our MAF values – Partnership,” explains Satish Moka, MAF PNG’s Operations Director who was part of a team from MAF PNG which has been working with the Morobe Provincial Government on how best MAF could help the isolated communities in the area and for MAF to return to the province for operations. Satish continues, “Dr Simon Ganal from the Lutheran Health Services had expressed to MAF his desire to conduct health patrols in the Morobe Province. We had advised Dr Ganal to coordinate with Dr David Mills from the Enga Baptist Health Services, who has substantial subject matter expertise on rural health patrols. MAF PNG took this opportunity to seek approval from the Morobe Government to fund this maiden health patrol to Sapmanga which they graciously concurred. Looking at the achievement, this is a beautiful illustration of a successful partnership where under the patronage of the Morobe Provincial Government we could have the Lutheran Health Services team from Etep Rural Hospital bring hope, health and healing to the people living in remote Sapmanga using MAF as the facilitator.”