MORE than three million Papua New Guineans do not have access to a doctor, but the figure is estimated to be higher.A graph this newspaper has obtained from the PNG Society for Rural and Remote Health shows this by indicating which districts have doctors and which do not.
President of PNGRRH Dr David Mills said only 39 of the 88 districts have a doctor, but added that not all districts that stated they have a doctor have one based in the districts.
"Some of the districts get marked "doctor present’’ when really they are only in the capital, example Vanimo- Green River gets marked as yes.
"Then there are those where there are doctors at the mines but who are not really out and about in the community, for example, Lihir in Namatanai and Hidden Valley in Bulolo.’’
He said the current population in PNG without a doctor in their district full time is 3,234,319.
"If you add up the populations of all the districts where there is a full time doctor, you will be looking at 3.2 million people, but if you really look harder at it, and go down to local level governments and see where the doctors are, you will be looking at 5.5 million or 6 million,’’ said Dr Mills.
The implications of these statistics are many and include PNG continuing to have high maternal and child mortality rates and a large number of people dying from preventable diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and malaria.
Lifestyle diseases, once a largely urban-based problem, is gradually becoming a problem in rural areas as well, he said.
A number of churches providing health services in rural areas face many challenges, including lack of doctors to serve in their respective facilities.
A large number of missionary doctors had left since Independence and were never replaced, resulting in the closure of some facilities.
St Barnabas Hospital at Dogura in Milne Bay Province is a classic example. It now operates as a health centre, but it was a busy hospital pre-independence days and was renowned for its service for people .
A doctor, originally from New Zealand, serving on Youth With A Mission Medical Ships Australia Sarah Dunn has this to say about the need in rural areas.
"There is one thing to hear statistics, but it is one thing to see a child unconscious with malaria. It touched my heart,’’ she said.
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