Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Lutheran health services thrive in PNG

Captions: 1. A Lutheran missionary doctor at work in Braun Hospital. People from all over PNG flock to Braun to seek the 'healing hands' of these missionary doctors. Picture by NMZ Mission. 2. A mother seeking treatment for her child at Braun Hospital. Picture by NMZ Mission. 3. Braun Memorial Hospital in Finschhafen, Morobe province. Picture by NMZ Mission. 4. Lutheran health services secretary Abraham Yapu...bearing the cross of Jesus.

Braun Hospital in Finschhafen, Morobe province, is a hive of activity every day as patients flock in from all over Papua New Guinea to seek the services of specialist missionary doctors.

These doctors, Lutheran volunteers from Germany, pray over each patient before treating them and there is a huge success rate.

Lutheran health services secretary Abraham Yapu conservatively estimates that Braun treats more than 10,000 patients a year.

“… Braun alone treats over 10,000 patients a year,” he tells me.

“We have a specialist surgeon, physician, gynaecologist and paeditrician at Braun Hospital.

“That’s why it attracts patients from all over the country.

“We have very good facilities, including up-to-date operating facilities.

“We have very hardworking missionary doctors who are fully committed to their jobs.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG, apart from its core task of spreading the Word of God, is also involved in many development activities such as health.

It runs four hospitals around the country at Braun, Yagaum in Madang, Gaubin on Karkar Island in Madang and Etep at Wasu in Morobe province.

“Most of our hospitals are staffed by overseas doctors, mainly from Germany,” Mr Yapu explains.

“There is an organisation called South South Programme which also provides doctors.

“At the moment, we have two doctors in PNG under this programme, which is working very well.

“We have two Bavarian doctors at Gaubin, four at Braun and one at Etep.

“There are missionary doctors sent in for a four-year term.

“We have two local doctors, one at Yagaum and one at Etep.”

Apart from these hospitals, ELCPNG runs 28 health centres through the whole country, 14 aid posts and 14 two-man aid posts.

“We have a health project called District Health Project in Menyamya (Morobe province),” Mr Yapu adds.

“Due to remoteness, this project was created so that we can have direct funding from our partners.

“This idea came from Bavaria and New Zealand.

“That was back in the 80’s.

“ELCPNG is a major contributor in funding.”

The ELCPNG also runs three health schools, the nursing school in Madang which is now affiliated with Divine Word University, and community health workers’ schools at Gaubin and Braun.

“We have almost 300 staff ranging from doctors to community health workers,” Mr Yapu says.

“We have about 250 or more casual workers, depending on areas where they work.

“Staffing would be about 50 for the three schools.

The ELCPNG’s Lutheran health services department was created in 1988; however, health services were already established long before this under the evangelism department.

“At the Ialibu synod in 1988, it was agreed that the Lutheran Health Services must become a department of its own,” Mr Yapu recalls.

“The first national health secretary was Mr Wilson Waesa.

“Changes were made and Vincent Michaels (now Tewai-Siassi MP) became the second national health secretary.

“At that time, we had two hospitals: Braun Memorial Hospital in Finschhafen and Yagaum Hospital in Madang.

“Gaubin (Madang province) became a hospital after Yagaum.

“In 2000, Etep Rural Hospital in Wasu, Kabwum district (Morobe province) was created.

“I don’t have exact figures for the number of patients for the whole country, but Braun alone treats over 10,000 patients a year.

“In the administration structure of the department, we have the national secretary, and then we have regional secretaries.

“I am the national health secretary, Don Kuda is the regional health secretary in Madang, Nena Nag is regional health secretary in Morobe, and Reverend James Koi is regional health secretary in the Highlands.

“We have a senior management team which meets every year to advise the Lutheran health services board.

“Lutheran health services board endorses what projects and programmes and it goes to the church council for endorsement and implementation.

“Lutheran health services comes under the churches medical council like other churches.

“Churches medical council, through the national government, gives grants.

“From churches medical council, the funding goes straight to the regional offices.

“Regional secretaries take care of that funding.

“It covers infrastructure, health programmes and salaries of the workers.

“In one year, funding for the three regions goes up to K6 million.

“Apart from churches media council, regional offices also get assistance from their respective provinces, districts and LLGs.

“ELCPNG is the main source of funding.

“Donations also come in from believers.

“In Morobe, we get a lot of assistance from the Morobe provincial government.

“Recently, we started receiving funding from MPs for health facilities in their electorates.”

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