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The Southern Highlands is on track to become one of Papua New Guinea’s health performers by the end of 2019

Picture of the Pimaga Maternity Waiting Village building

Pimaga Maternity Waiting Village in the Southern Highlands is the result of partners like the Southern Highlands Provincial Health Authority (PHA), the community, Oil Search Limited and the Oil Search Foundation working collaboratively to achieve results.

While in 2016, the year province moved to a Provincial Health Authority, the National Department of Health ranked the SHPHA only 21st out of 22 provinces in terms of overall health performance, it has improved dramatically in 2017, moving it up to 14th place.

All indications are it will continue to progress in 2018. Last year, while dealing with the impact of the earthquake the SHPHA has immunized the province against polio, secured funding for several rural health and key infrastructure projects, and recruited more doctors to work in the province.

At its March 2019 Board meeting, CEO Dr Joseph Birisi reflected on these and other achievements, and pointed out that they were achieved despite several very big challenges. The first is (and remains) the remoteness of the Province’s many rural communities, which makes it difficult to access services and place medical staff.

Last year, these challenges were compounded by the February 2018 earthquake, a magnitude-7.5 disaster that didn’t just destroy lives, but also damaged homes, roads, water supplies, gardens and health centers. These losses were compounded by election-related violence in June, and a legal challenge to the SHPHA Board.

But today, a newly appointed Board is in place, alongside an energetic and professional management team. Together, they are prioritising strong governance, leadership, and collaboration to deliver key improved health indicators.

Close engagement with partners is also helping improve management systems and capacity. For example, the Oil Search Foundation recently helped to engage PriceWaterhouseCoopers to review the SPHA’s financial systems. The review found several positive practices and made recommendations for further improvements. This will soon be followed by the annual government audit and support from partners to implement all recommendations, with oversight from the Board.

The Board is aiming to become one of the best health performers in PNG by the end of 2019 and believes that it is on track to do so.

“Both the Board and Management are committed to delivering the best governance we can. Every toea received for health in the Province will be directed towards activities that improve services for the people of the Southern Highlands,” says the Chair, Stephanie Copus-Campbell, a big believer in partnership. Also the head of the Oil Search Foundation, she underlined the importance of the SHPHA working closely and collaboratively with partners.

The Board noted that it was impossible to achieve such improvements without support of key health partners. Last year the Member for Mendi-Munihu Hon Michael Nali provided over PGK 2 million of his DDA fundsto purchase equipment and vehicles for the provincial hospital. Other partners include Church health agencies, the Governor and his Provincial Administration, District Development Authorities, the National Department of Health, Asian Development Bank, Australian Government, United Nations agencies, local communities and the staff of SHPHA.

“All of our partners can be absolutely confident that we will spend their money well and deliver positive outcomes for our communities”
- Stephanie Copus Campbell Chair, Southern Highlands Provincial Health Authority