As Papua New Guineans struggle with medicine shortages in nearly all public health facilities, Youth With A Mission (YWAM) statement showing a smiling minister for health presenting a cheque of K1.5 million has enraged many Papua New Guineans.
The reason for the anger is because it is quite insulting that the Health Minister moves quickly in funding an already well funded international organization with taxpayers money as the existing health system collapses all around us.
In the long term, the YWAM program is unsustainable in PNG. Let’s face it. They come and they go. In the downtime, the heavily burdened health system is left with the same patients and the same problems.
There are very basic systematic problems that need to be fixed. Problems like the flow of medicines from the area medical stores to the clinics and hospitals. If there is someone stealing or abusing the process, it is the Minister’s role to commission an investigation (if the Health Secretary can’t do it) and get to the bottom of the problem. Resolve it, for goodness sake.
While I have the greatest respect for the YWAM program, it is a band aid solution. It looks good because politicians are “seen to be delivering services.” It is It is a politically cool option.
But why can’t we spend that money to fix our systems? Why can’t we fund our own outreach programs and develop our own staff like we used to. Make it cool to be a community health worker or a nurse who goes on regular government funded patrols. Put them on boats like the YWAM guys and get them out there.
We have to be able to go to the National Cancer Center in Lae when our relatives are ill. Have you checked the price of one tooth extraction lately? Have you checked if the dental clinics can fill cavities? You will be surprised how much we have come to accept the poor state of public health services.
I’m not saying reinvent the wheel.
Papua New Guinea has a GOOD health system. It is people focused. There are staff that are committed and the medicine is provided free. Where did we go wrong? It’s a question best answered by those with intimate knowledge of the health system.
I say again, there is a medicine shortage. Don’t point fingers. Just get someone in those comfortable offices to go to Lae and other centers and see the problem for themselves.