Obstacles keep doctors from rural postings
SIGNIFICANT obstacles stopping doctors being posted to rual areas include law and order, poor housing, rundown facilities, lack of appropriate education, training and opportunities in PNG, says a university academic and medical doctor.
Dr David Mills, University of Papua New Guinea academic and president of the PNG Society of Rural and Remote Health, said in a recent presentation that these factors are also faced in urban areas around the country.
He said the experience in PNG suggests that there are also other factors, such as the fear of missing out on specialist training places and poor communications (and especially lack of access to the internet).
The very low number of doctors being trained each year (currently less than 50) also means that rural job opportunities can often be ignored in favor of more attractive options in town, Dr Mills said.
He recommended that the Government makes a decision that health services in PNG must be developed in an equitable fashion.
"It is immoral to put millions of kina into developing expensive hospitals in cities while closing aid posts and starving basic rural health services," he said.
"The health kina is finite. It must be divided in an equitable manner – no one human being is of more value than another."
Dr Mills further recommended that the Department of Health makes plans to equip district health facility with doctors by 2030 at a certain set target.
He said partnerships must be sought with non-government providers for the administration of rural health services in areas where it is felt that this is most likely to achieve the best outcome for the people of that area.
Dr Mills recommended that the Government provides adequate funding to the UPNG school of medicine and gealth sciences to fully fund the expansion of rural placements for medical students and residents, similarly funding incentives to promote and expand the 6 years master of medicine (MMED (rural) training program.
"We need to reverse the devastating change in medical culture that has occurred in PNG, bringing the balance back between rural general practice and town specialist and private practice," said Dr. Mills.
He also recommended that the Health Department work in partnership with provincial health authorities and provincial governments to achieve agreed benchmarks for rural health service improvement so that provinces are directed to achieve targets in rural health before expansions in provincial hospital funding can be agreed.
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