Find Health and Medical expertise in Papua New Guinea
Health services in Papua New Guinea are primarily financed by public funds and provided by the government and the church through hospitals, dispensaries and clinics. The rugged terrain and resultant challenges on infrastructure make providing effective health services nationwide, especially in rural areas, problematic. Port Moresby General Hospital is the country’s main teaching and referral hospital. It houses a hyperbaric recompression chamber for diving emergencies and is the only hospital in the country to have a CT scanner. The hospital is also a major treatment centre for AIDS. Papua New Guinea relies heavily on pharmaceutical imports from nearby developed countries, such as Australia. The Pharmaceutical Services Standards Branch of the National Department of Health regulates the import, export, wholesale and retail of medicines.
Lack of local or easily accessible facilities is the main barrier stopping people in the most rural areas from accessing health care. In a report on the Papua New Guinea post-2015 development agenda entitled The Future We Want – Voices from the People of Papua New Guinea, the introduction of health centres throughout rural areas was recommended. The lack of clinics in rural areas is, among other things, responsible for women dying during childbirth before they can reach the nearest health centre. For serious conditions, travel to Port Moresby General Hospital would usually be necessary. Although treatment there is free, the expense of travelling to the capital is prohibitive for some.
Communicable diseases along with maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions in Papua New Guinea accounted for an estimated 48% of all mortality in 2012. The prevalence of HIV in Papua New Guinea, as a percentage of the population aged 15–49 years, stood at 0.7% in 2012. There has been no notable decrease in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS since records began in the country in 1990. In 2012 there were 150,195 reported cases of malaria in the country, a sharp increase from 84,060 in 2011, before which time it was largely consistent. The number of deaths from malaria has experienced an overall decline by more than a third in the period 2006–11. There has been an overall increase in the estimated incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in Papua New Guinea since 1990, although this has been accompanied by an overall decrease in estimated mortality (when mortality data excludes cases comorbid with HIV) from the disease. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Papua New Guinea accounted for an estimated 42% of all mortality in 2012. The most prevalent NCDs in Papua New Guinea are cancers and cardiovascular diseases, which accounted for 9% and 8% of total deaths across all age groups in 2012, respectively. Non-communicable variants of respiratory diseases and diabetes both contributed 6% to total mortality (2012).
Infant mortality in Papua New Guinea was 46 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014, with an under-five mortality rate of 61 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012. There has been a consistent decline in the under-five mortality rate since 1990. Although this decline is encouraging, the under-five mortality rate is not yet in line with the country’s target of 30 deaths per 1,000 live births, as defined by Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4).
Less than a fifth of health care in Papua New Guinea (17%) was paid for by patients or funded by other non-governmental entities – such as private insurers, charities or employers – in 2012. Total health expenditure constituted 5.2% of GDP in 2012, of which 83% (US$94 per capita) was covered by the government.
In 2013 government expenditure on health was 4% of GDP. In the most recent survey, conducted in the period 1997 to 2011, there were five doctors, and 46 nurses and midwives per 100,000 people. Additionally, in 2011, 43% of births were attended by qualified health staff and in 2013, 70% of one-year-olds were immunised with one dose of measles. In 2014, 40% of people were using an improved drinking water source and 19% had access to adequate sanitation facilities.
Papua New Guinea was not an original signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but acceded to it in 2008 and has written the covenant into law. It includes ‘the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health’. The covenant commits signees to providing healthy and hygienic environmental conditions, controlling epidemic diseases, improving child health and facilitating access to health services without discrimination.