Severe shortage of PNG health workers

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

An acute shortage of health professionals in hospitals around Papua New Guinea has prompted the Special Parliamentary Committee on Health Matters to propose an amendment to a law that prevents public servants who resigned to stand for elections from being re-employed until after five years.

Committee chairman and Kokopo MP Elias Kapavore and members of his committee made this known after he discovered an acute manpower shortage at Goroka Provincial Hospital and in nearly all the health facilities in Eastern Highlands.

“My committee will report to Parliament of a manpower shortage in public hospitals and health centres,” Kapavore said.

“Many specialised doctors who unsuccessfully contested the 2022 General Elections are not allowed to come back because the law says they have to wait for five years before they can be re-employed,” he said.

Kapavore said the health sector needs experienced doctors and nurses back in the health system to serve people.

The amendment to the Public Service Management Act, passed by Parliament on the eve of general elections, prevent the usual flight of experienced civil servants from the service to contest elections.

The law did not deter civil servants from resigning but its effect upon the health sector is now coming to light.

He said the committee will report to Parliament and propose an amendment to the law.

The Parliamentary Committee comprised of MPs Kapavore, Central Bougainville MP Simon Dumerinu and Mul Baiyer MP Jacob Maki.

They were shown the Ear Nose Teeth (ENT) Clinic at the Goroka Provincial Hospital without ENT specialist doctors.

Eastern Highlands Provincial Health Authority (EHPHA) director Public Health Dr Max Manape told the committee that the only ENT specialist in the Highlands who operates from Goroka resigned and contested the elections last year.

“The ENT specialist lost and we need him back but could not (engage him) because of the law.

“We are turning back patients because there is no ENT specialist to attend to them,” he said.

Manape also told the committee that Eastern Highlands needs more doctors and nurses with the current 723 staff ceiling to be increased to over 1,000. He said 78 staff members who were retrenched recently still have their positions yet to be filled.