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Back to basics. Medical and educational activities in Mendi in Papua New Guinea.

Apart from Greenland, Papua New Guinea is another island on the planet that is still full of blank gaps on military maps. However, the beauty of the island does not correspond with the level of living of its residents. It is estimated that 37% of 6.5 million residents live below the line of poverty (data by the CIA World Fact Book and the WHO). The island is constantly exposed to sudden natural catastrophes: cyclones, flooding, earthquakes, and eruptions of volcanos that hinder the development of agriculture.

In Papua New Guinea, all medical services in state and private institutions are fully payable, which makes patients purchase medicaments in private pharmacies, if they are delivered at all. The level of medical care on the island is dramatic. The diocese health centre in Mendi provides patients with access to a very limited medical assistance. The same refers to medical points in villages. However, the number of qualified medical staff is not sufficient. Persons working in the above mentioned points are sometimes nurses, but usually paramedics lacking professional medical knowledge. Medicaments and basic medical equipment are lacking. Patients are mostly prescribed a pill of paracetamol as a panacea for all ailments. The same refers to the method of treatment in large state health centres. There are no diagnostics facilities due to which the majority of patients will never learn the name of their disease/complaints. Neither will they know how it is to develop in future.

The project by the Polish Medical Mission became a part of the National Health Plan of the Ministry of Health of Papua for the years 2011-2020 the main idea of which is exactly “Back to Basics - Strengthened primary health care and improved service delivery for the rural majority and urban disadvantaged".

The project by the Polish Medical Mission was a pilot project and was to explore needs in the region and implement effective solutions that are to reflect in the improvement of the health condition of the population.

Back to basics. Medical and educational activities in Mendi in Papua New Guinea.

The main aim of the project conducted during the period from 17 July until 31 December 2015 was to: facilitate access to diagnostics and medical care for the community living in the mountainous Provinces of Papua New Guinea (mainly Southern Highlands), increase the awareness of patients about infectious diseases and sexually transmitted diseases and teach principles of every-day hygiene; perform basic screening tests of the population living in Mendi and neighbouring villages in order to draw up a report on the health condition of the local population and implement further medical activities in the region; cooperate with the local staff to implement effective methods of diagnostics and treatment, dressing small wounds and performing simple surgery operations. All on-site activities were performed by 2 volunteers: a paramedic and a general surgeon during a 6-week period (from 19 October until 3 December 2015).

The project directly referred to the Millennium Development Goals:

GOAL 4: Reduce child mortality by decreasing the child mortality ratio by 2/3 for children in the age below 5 years;

GOAL 5: Improve maternal health by decreasing the mother mortality rate by 3/4;

GOAL 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases by preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and limiting new infections, preventing the spread of malaria and other dangerous diseases and limiting the number of new cases of diseases.

The project consisted of the following activities:

1. Providing first medical assistance;

2. Screening tests of the population - on the basis of the report on the health condition of the tested population;

3. Educational actions and increasing the pro-health awareness among residents;

4. Trainings for the local “medical” staff in simple surgery solutions, diagnostics and effective treatment in the light of available resources;

5. Educational initiative.

Back to basics. Medical and educational activities in Mendi in Papua New Guinea.

The project was performed in the period from 17 July until 31 December 2015. Two volunteers, i.e. a surgeon and a paramedic, stayed in the Provinces of Southern Highlands and Hela in Papua New Guinea during the period from 21 October until 2 December 2015.

Results of the performed activities:

- over 70 planned surgery operations were performed by patients who did not have any other alternative to benefit from such assistance, e.g. due to high costs or a long distance to the state institution;

- over 250 patients were examined by the volunteers of the Polish Medical Mission for whom a diagnosis was established and pharmacological treatment was implemented, with a similar number of persons having been referred to a hospital or a different medical institution;

- approx. 1,000 patients were examined in cooperation with the local medical staff;

- it was possible to establish the health state of the population, the most frequent diseases and complaints, the scope of available medical assistance in the existing system, as well as the most important needs and problems requiring external assistance to be resolved, on the basis of which a report on the situation of the society of the Provinces of Southern Highlands and Hela and health needs in the region was drawn up;

- imported medical equipment was donated;

- a large group of pupils, students, priests and ordinary citizens were trained in selected matters related to first aid and health education;

- several medical employees were trained in dressing wounds, including principles of sutering and dealing with sterile materials;

- an article was published on project results in the magazine “Medicine in Practice”, as well as 2 slide shows were organized for the medical and tourist branches, including a presentation on the project.