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PNG PM Marape Launches 10-year National Health Plan

 PAPUA New Guineans across the length and breadth of the country should expect quality healthcare service delivery “within an hour’s reach” by the Year 2030, Prime Minister Hon. James Marape has said.

The Prime Minister issued this directive to the Department of Health, especially the Health Secretary and the heads of the Provincial Health Authorities (PHA), as he summarised the National Health Plan 2021 – 2030 before launching it in Port Moresby today.

With the Health sector receiving one of biggest slices of the budgetary pie at 11 percent in next year’s budget (the highest to date since Independence), PM Marape did not mince his words when he told the PHA heads that this was “not an academic plan” and that they must “connect the dots”, absorb the plan, and begin executing it.

He said: “I summarise the plan into this – a quality health system and facilities must be within reach in an hour by walking, by boat, by vehicle, or by a plane for our people wherever they are in the country.

“Health is our people’s fundamental right; it is our moral responsibility to provide good health care to our people."

Along the same vein, the Prime Minister said he didn't want to see any more "medical tourists to Singapore, Philippines or elsewhere by 2031".

He continued: “PHAs heads, I come to you because you stand beneficiary in the devolution of functions that already is being transferred to you. As you sit in on your PHAs, the Health Secretary does not know who is living one hour away or two hours away from the aid post or the health centre. It is you.

“Health is our peoples’ fundamental right. That is why we have given you a greater allocation this year when Covid-19 exposed a total deficiency we have inherited in our health care system.

“A country with only 200 ICU beds is totally shocking for us. A nation of 8 million people having 200 ICU beds right across the country is not something that we can be proud of.”

The Prime Minister also made it clear to the PHAs to “stay away from the K15 million" allocation earmarked for provincial hospitals, while the departments of Health and National Planning & Monitoring worked on a more practical, watertight, and comprehensive programme for PNG's hospitals. These new programmes are being worked out with the support of a development partner for 22 modern hospitals for the country.

 “So we must make strategic interventions synchronised with my view that all hospitals, health centers and community aid posts must be one hour within walking distance or by a mode of transport for our citizens for necessary reliable health care within their reach for any level of health needs," the Prime Minister said.

With the spotlight on Health beginning next year, PM Marape said this would continue over the years with similar allocations in every budget till 2030 even if he didn’t return as head of the country.

The launch of this, the 7th National Health Plan since Independence, comes exactly a week after the passing of the 2022 National Budget, which is projected to set Papua New Guinea’s feet on the road to debt-recovery by the Year 2027.

Also with a forecast of a K200 million economy by the Year 2030, the 7th National Health Plan has received the direct design oversight of the Prime Minister to add value to the overall economic goal as, he said, “a healthy population means a healthy economy”.

Health is receiving K2.8 billion in the 2022 National Budget, or 11 percent of the expenditure – the highest to PNG health since Independence.

Among significant areas worth highlighting is the allocation of K50 million toward the cancer facility at the Port Moresby General Hospital - another first within the health sector budget. 

Besides this is the creation of 5,000 positions for additional health care workers which the Department of Personnel Management is now facilitating. This would later be migrated into the permanent structure.

PM Marape also highlighted areas within Health that also needed immediate attention beginning next year, including medical research and the elevation of the standard of the PNG medical board to nothing less than “world class”.

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