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Training of Doctors in Papua New Guinea

Commentary by Dr. James Naipao

At the current Population Growth that this country is facing, close to 300,000 babies will be born every year, and average number of children in a nuclear family in Papua New Guinea is four, and therefore, the need to provide quality education and healths services amongst others will be a huge concern for any government of the day.

Many Health Institutions and Schools will pop up. Many Colleges and Universities will come up. All these will take place because of the demands of the population.

For doctor to the population ratio, it is one doctor to 17,000 people in the country. This ratio is very bad compared to that of our neighbours in Oceania and Pacific.

University of PNG’s Taurama Campus is the only school that was responsible for producing doctors since 1959. Selection Criteria is stringent because the career ‘of the after-life of the MBBS Program’ is crafted out on saving lives. The only source of intakes to the MBBS Program has been from the UPNG’s Science Foundation. Recently, intakes have come from PAU, a university that is offering the Science Foundation Program. And, a Rural Doctor Training Program is currently being offered by Divine Word University. It is into its second year now. The name ‘rural’ is not correct because any MBBS graduates should work any where. The new Pacific University and the new Enga Hospital to be built will also offer the MBBS Program, the news of it is out.

The country needs doctors, and if the quota for the Taurama Campus is not met by UPNG’s Science Foundation students this year because they did not meet the selection criteria, then UPNG has not degraded itself. Let the number be small. UPNG must be applauded for maintaining the status quo.

The Taurama Campus’ MBBS and Post-graduate Training Programs are amongst the best in the region. It’s outputs can work anywhere in the world, and, already some are working in Australia, England, USA, New Zealand, and Pacific Island Countries. For those universities and Institutions in the country offering the MBBS program, they must have their curriculum synchronized with what is offered at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at Taurama so that graduates that come out will have the same level of training, confidence and expertise. We are dealing with human lives and not robots’ lives. The Department of Higher Education, Research and Technology must ensure this does happens outright.

Recently, Health Minister Sir Puka Temu announced the recruitment of doctors from India, Australia and Cuba. An MOU was signed by the GoPNG and Cuba in 2016 in Cuba to try out 20 doctors in ten district hospitals. That is yet to be implemented. In that same visit to Cuba, and on return, the GoPNG announced that the Taurama Campus will turn into a stand alone university called the ‘PNG Medical and Health Sciences University’, and, it will come into effect in 2018. The country is in the keeping on when it will actually take effect.

The Health Minister’s announcement is clearly looking at the shortage of doctors in the country and wants to recruit overseas, the announce is a ‘bandage decision’. Countries thrive very well on their political, education and health systems. It must not devalue it’s education and health system. The stand alone university is a great news, and its staff can now be well numerated and the staff load can improve than what it is now. Therefore, the GoPNG must now fast track this evolution. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill himself announced this and the announcement was applauded by all health Professionals and Institutions in the country.

There are also 31 doctors (included in this are general and specialist doctors) who lost in the 2017 National Election want to return to work but are not able to. The system is preventing their re-entry. Of the 34 doctors that contested including the Health Minister, only three got elected into the National Parliament. Can the Health Minister recall these doctors to public health service duties.

Also, there are many doctors who have completed their two years of the residency program but are looking for jobs. Can the Health Minister bring them into the public health service duties.

After that, if the 1 doctor to 17, 000 populace is the same, (and it will be the same,) than overseas recruitment drive can be done, and strictly done on supervision because PNG does not want paper MBBS doctors.

Thank you.

Dr. James Naipao
National Doctors Association
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