Does Papua New Guinea Need A Second Medical School?

If you ask me if PNG needs a second medical school, my answer would be a big YES. If you say NO, you have your own reasons why you think so. The question, I think is, who will pay for it? I do not want to talk about the funding side because I do not want to tell those whose job is to seek and fund such needs how to do their job. I just want to present the facts that I know and you make up your own mind.

Justifying The Need

In 2000 there were 275 doctors and 2841 nurses in PNG. PNG’s population at that time was 5887000. Divide the number of doctors by the total population and you will agree with me that there is indeed a need for a second medical school in PNG. WHO has selected data on PNG which you can check to confirm my figures. Whether PNG can afford it or not, is another issue, which I do not want to go into. Many have written about the mis-managment, corruption etc etc and I do not want to go into that. It will be just repetition.

Where Will The Second Medical School In PNG Be Located?

I am thinking Divine Word University (DWU) in Madang. Sir Peter Barter in his capacity as health minister in 2006 announced the possiblity of a medical faculty to be established at DWU so that is an indication that government is aware of this need. Students and staff of DWU are in a better position to comment on this further so will not say much.

However, from couple of emails that I received last year, I understand that the 3 year HEO program will be changed to a 4 year degree program and I recall from the 2004 medical symposium in Port Moresby that the name of the new program when introduced will be called `Bachelor of Science (Rural Health)’ or something similar to reflect the nature of the course I think. DWU has recently recruited some senior academics from UPNG medical school so I think the process is already underway.

What Are The Benefits Of A Second Medical School In PNG?

From the obvious one that there will be an increase in the number of medical graduates in PNG, there are other benefits that I see and will just briefly outline them here.

Students who want to study medicine but can not enter UPNG medical school due to space limitation can have a chance to go to DWU. At the moment UPNG medical school can only take in 50-60 first year students (MBBS II).

With the establishment of a second medical school there will ‘competition’ between UPNG and DWU. And I think a healthy competition is good. Competing to get the best students, competing for funding (eg for research) and competing to make your MBBS program better than the other (in a healthy way of course) will indirectly increase the quality of medical graduates (I am not saying current medical graduates can not get job overseas), increase the quality of medical research and will open doors for new opportunities for collaboative work. All in the name of improving the delivery of health services to the people.

There is always two sides of a coin. I am just telling you one side.


About rodney itaki

Medical doctor and public health specialist from Papua New Guinea.
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