PNG National Department of Health Must Give Rural Health Service Delivery to the Churches Medical Council.

Papua New Guinea’s rural health service and health infrastructure is largely owned by faith based organisations. The Churches Medical Council (CMC) is the main body representing all churches in PNG involved in rural health service delivery. Furthermore, I do not know of one Community Health Worker (CHW) School operated by the Government that is functional.  All the ones currently operating are own and operated by churches. So it makes sense and logical to me that the rural health service delivery in PNG must be given to churches.

For example, in my own district, Wapenamanda in the Enga Province, the only rural hospital (120 bed capacity) is operated by the Gutnius Lutheran Church (GLC). The 4 square church is also now beginning to set up its own health centre and soon maybe a CHW training school. The other major health facility is operated by the Catholic church. As far as I know, none of the government operated health facilities are functional. What are shame. I don’t know whether to blame the district health services or the National Department of Health. Maybe our own member of parliament is not doing enough for health service delivery.

Nationally, I think the same story will be resonated by the rural population.

I read an article in The Australian some days ago about rural health service in Brazil  being given totally to churches to handle. The result was remarkable – large improvement in their health statistics, compared to the days when the government was doing. A good lesson for PNG I reckon.

Should the rural health service delivery in PNG be given to the churches to handle? ABSOLUTELY!! That is my firm belief. The CMC is the officially recognised body which receives money from the national budget from the government so all churches in PNG involved in health service delivery in the rural areas must become part of the CMC and push for this agenda. All the rural health infrastructure is already own by the churches and it makes sense to give them more money and more control over rural health programs.

If the government of PNG is really serious about rural health service delivery, they must put their money where their mouth is and give greater control and financial assistance to the CMC.


About rodney itaki

Medical doctor and public health specialist from Papua New Guinea.
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13 Responses to PNG National Department of Health Must Give Rural Health Service Delivery to the Churches Medical Council.

  1. Scott Dooley says:

    I agree with you (although it would also need to involved strengthening the capacity and authority of CMC). I would be interested to read that article or it’s source. Can you send me a link? I couldn’t find it by google.

    Dr. Scott Dooley
    Nazarene Hospital
    Kudjip, WHP, PNG

  2. rodney itaki says:

    Scott, the article was from a print version, about 4 months ago. I am not sure if the article will appear in the online version.

  3. steve anderson says:

    Hi, I am just starting to make follow up enquiries re delivering medical/surgical hardware to PNG using yachts waiting in Australia for skippers . As a qualified commercial yachtmaster, and a Christian wanting to get into mission work. I heard that there were ‘yachts filled with med supplies for PNG’ waiting in Australia. I am very interested in getting somewhere with this enquiry, any info at all, any leads would be great.

  4. Ray Krai says:

    I could not fully agree to churches totally taking over the rural health service delivery system although church health service in general is renown for its good work. If we take a very close look at the enabling and diabling factors that constitutes the formation or dynamics of delivering an effective health care to the rural population, we will be looking at a rang of issues including; professional and technical capacity building and sustaining process, logistics and operations, monetry incidentals including renumerations and other benefits, best practise methods, etc….Apart from that we also have to be mind full that there must be good political will, community corhesiveness and social stability. I am not mentioning other colloborative efforts from other sectors that needs effective allignment with health sectors to ensure that collective there is a conducive enabling environment for churches to start thinking about absorbing all the responsibilities for delivering health care in the rural areas of PNG. If you also carefully examine the existing church run health services, you will be supprised that some churches ( Iam not particular on any church group) are performing far more worse than even the government health facilities. Hence, churches in general are not yet competent to undertake this massive role. My suggestions here is; the government needs to give specific autonomy on very specific issues such as financial management, monitoring and evluation of activities, strong emphasis on health indicators, clinical governance, community and facility engagement, etc….
    There needs to be very strong controll measures placed and managed under legally binding acts to prevent non-compliance issues. And for sure there are many other ways of doing things. This is just a shallow contribution of my opinion as opposed to the origional suggestion.

  5. Nancy Geregl (Midwifery student at PAU) says:

    As a upcoming midwife, ambitious to serve in rural areas of PNG, I disagree on the initial suggestion. Government should take intitial initiatives in full facilitation of rural health services while the churches can be subordinates in contributing to the services deliveries. my suggestion is if the government can facilitate and allow the churches to cater for its managerial, monitoring and clinical aspect of the services.

  6. Emma Wakpi says:

    Hi Rodney,

    Happened upon your site whilst trying to locate the Christian Health Services of PNG website (formerly the Churches Medical Council). Am favouriting it to come back and read all the articles as they look to be very interesting. The web address for the Christian Health Services of PNG is


  7. Ztinning says:

    Hi Rodney, I am a nurse-midwife who is an ex-employee of government who had been working collaboratively with NGOs & Church health services in the past 10 years as Dist. Disease control officer & Health worker trainer but now am on study overseas. I was searching for our national health website & accidentally bumped into your blog & read this interesting information on handing over the rural health services to the churches and would like to make a contribution to your thought.
    I have a few comments to make as food for thought from my experiences & observation over the years I worked with government in partnership with churches health services.
    It is true, Church Health services had been committed to delivering health services consistently to the rural population & urban disadvantages. As you have mentioned church health facilities are open most times & health staffs are often available for services whenever community needs them. They have management structure in place to coordinate & manage health programs for expected outcome to meet national health indicators. They have plans in place for improvement of infrastructures, medical supplies and their human resources development. Some of the things that the health services have in their system that retained health workers in health services are career development, basic remuneration for the employees like housing, retirement savings and other benefits where I believe had kept their officers in service despite the low pay they get compared to government health officers. The very essential thing that the church health services have in them is the spiritual faith in God which give them this strong passion to provide these essential service to God’s beloved people in the rural, unless otherwise the services would be that of similar to the government.
    The government on the other hand do have some of the health facilities open in rural that are well staffed, remunarations are similar but what I see as weakness in our government system are human resource development plans, management & coordination of the health services & effective partnership for a horizontal health services to rural communities. Leaders & managers in the government are mostly not qualified through academic but experiences. If a balance could be made there where managers & coordinators could develop academically & take up roles of leadership would be very beneficial for the health system & community. In church Health services when the system is planning for an officer to take up a higher role in the organisation the officer is sent for academic studies to develop skills before the role is given whereas for the government the manager role is just given to the long serving officer on merits of experiences & not academic qualification. Another would be the new reform system for health going under the administration of non health personal who do not understand the importance of health services that priorities are not given in their budgets. This is where we have leaders with poor vision for rural communities’ health & incompetent management skills to understand & managing government health resources & services in PNG making the government health system to be seen as failing on their roles in delivering effective rural health services.
    My opinion is, government and church health services need to work together as partners to strengthen & improve rural health services that are already there. I believe church can not bear all the burden of rural health services along nor the government, as each of them have their weaknesses when identified they can compliment each other to share the burden of rural health problems. I believe church health services have their challenges in which I can not state clearly here as I have not worked in any church health services before but from observation there is need for improved pay to motivate officers & some other incentives a church health employee would say. For the government I have described one major weakness earlier therefore my suggestion is government & church health services should work in partnership to compliment & supplement each other both in administration & clinical services to bring about the expected health outcome for our rural population. Govenment can learn from what the church health services are doing in delivering rural health services successfully & consistently and adopt some systems & policies to improve their performance in rural health services and/or compliment church health services in providing some/extra manpower to deliver rural health services when it comes to rural outreach clinics, or provide incidentals or other technical assistance (transport) to support church health workers to implement health programs. The two should come together and identify the gaps and each contribute what they have to fill the gaps and work collaboratively & effectively to deliver better health services to rural citizens of PNG.

  8. Nathan Polty says:

    Hi Rodney, just bumped into this site. But the topic raised here is very serious and I believe it needed to be shared so I just did that on my Facebook page. But if you and any person will put more input please i am also inviting you to our “PNG HEALTH WORKERS FORUM” which is a group on Facebook where you can post. About the subject of Rural Health Services, I believe, a new approach is definitely needed..but should be a shared responsibility but adequately subsidised by the Government and Managed by the churches. Salary of church health workers must match that of government Health workers with Superannuation etc. I agree with Ray Krai. Thanks… NATHAN POLTY (Dental Therapist, Mendi Gen. Hospital. SHP)

  9. PNG Health issues are having negative impact on the economy. We need to address them.

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