I resigned from my last job at Immanuel Lutheran Rural Hospital to join Xstrata Copper at the Frieda River Project in November 2010. It was a big decision but I wanted to be part of what was happening in the resource sector in PNG so I joined. I must say I stepped on a lot of toes and hopefully did not burn any bridges.
I am now working on a 28/14 Fly-in-fly-out roster. And during my two weeks break I was doing volunteer work providing medical cover at the Gutnius Lutheran Church run Immanuel Lutheran Rural Hospital. But I felt the need to assist my own people in the Tsak valley. The Four Square Church in Wapenamanda had been operating a health centre in Tsak so I decided to ask Pastor Timothy if they wanted a visiting doctor to conduct consultation clinics at the health centre. The health centre has only four staff so I felt the need to assist them. I got the green light and I did 3 clinics on my last break.
Patients from Tsak valley have to make a 2-3 hours trip to come to Wapenamanda station and then make their way to the Lutheran Mission hospital for the doctor’s clinic and me going to the Four Square Health Centre was a big relief for them. There is no fee charged at the health centre. But patients are expected to bring a portion of their garden produce or firewood to the health centre for the staff who work there. After my first clinic day I went home with a big box of vegetables which we shared with other staff at Immanuel Lutheran Hospital.
I saw a wide range of cases. More common ones included chronic osteoarthritis, skin conditions, chronic obstructive airway disease, pelvic infections and eye conditions. There is minor procedure room so I am hoping that I will do some minor cases under local anesthesia next time I am in Tsak to conduct consultation clinics.
There are not many (less than 10 maybe) Community Health Worker (CHW) training school in PNG and I think the Four Square Church is addressing a real need. The government needs to do more to support the Churches Medical Council and churches like the Four Square Church that are delivering primary health care. Pasto Timothy told me that the Four Square Church is taking a unique approach in training CHW. Students enrolled will not only receive medical training (with a focus in midwifery) but also some vocational and pastoral training. It is envisaged that graduates when stationed alone in health centres will be able to do minor maintenance work at their own health centres and also spread the Gospel of Christ. It is a new model, one that I think is innovative and takes a new approach in solving an old issue in PNG.