PNG Parliament Committee wants 40 doctors reinstated

Health worker and a patient in Port Moresby General Hospital (Photo: DFAT)

A law passed by the Papua New Guinea Parliament to prevent public servants who contested general elections from re-entering the public service for five years is causing a severe shortage in a province’s health workforce.

The Special Parliamentary Committee on Health Matters has reported to Parliament that Eastern Highlands is facing a serious shortage of healthcare workers – and the changed law is partly to blame.

Committee chairman Elias Kapavore said: “The committee heard that some doctors and health workers unsuccessful in General Election 2022 (GE22) remained unemployed to date, due to the amendment of Section 55 of the Public Service Management Act,” he said.

The committee recommended that Parliament “review and revise the Public Service Management Act Section 55 to allow doctors, health workers and essential workers to re-enter the public service after contesting in general elections”.

There were 40 doctors who contested the GE22.

Last year, Health and HIV/AIDS Minister Dr Lino Tom raised concerns about the shortage of doctors and wanted the 40 doctors to be re-employed in the public service immediately.

Public Service Minister Joseph Sungi last year said public servants who contested GE22 would not be re-employed at least for the next five years.

The committee’s preliminary report on the conditions of health facilities and performances of the provincial health authorities of Eastern Highlands, East Sepik, and the National Capital District has been presented to Parliament.

On the Eastern Highlands, the committee said: “The committee noted that there is no PHA board for the last six months.

“The committee noted poor waste disposal pathway and recommend for this to be improved as a matter of priority

“It was noted that the incinerator bought by the Department of Health two years ago is still awaiting installation.”

The committee visited Eastern Highlands in June and toured the Goroka Hospital, Lopi urban clinic and Goroka-North urban clinic.

The committee recommended that:

* The Department of Health appoints the Eastern Highlands PHA board as soon as possible;

*The Department of Personnel Management in liaison with the Finance Department funds the approved 317 positions submitted by the Eastern Highlands PHA and advertisement of the positions should be made as soon as possible;

*The Conservation and Environment Protection Authority liaise with the Health Department and Eastern Highlands PHA and immediately give clearance for the installation and use of the new incinerator for the Goroka General Hospital; and, *The Government review and revise the Public Service Management Act section 55 to allow for doctors, health workers and essential workers to re-enter public service after contesting in General Elections.