Key Concepts of Public Health and Tropical Medicine - Papua New Guinea
What are the issues now for Australia and our near neighbours? What does the future look like?
28 July - 7 August 2017
Our visit to PNG was a most fabulous experience.
We sailed to the Milne Bay area of PNG on board the P&O Aria which was a great experience. Dr Margaret Young, Gail Aylmer, and Shona Hubsher provided some fantastic education sessions in the conference venue as we sailed up the Queensland Coast on our way to the first port of call - Alotau.
Education at Sea created an exceptional land tour of this area which included a visit to the local hospital where we were warmly greeted by our Nursing colleagues and the director of medical services. The difference between the health service delivery model available in PNG and our own in Australia was stark and provided the inspiration for a number of reflective discussions on the determinants of health care and the provision of services to remote communities. Our Nursing colleagues were generous with their information as they took the group on a tour of the hospital and eager to gain an understanding from us as to the services that we were delivering back in Australia.
We then moved onto Rabaul where again Education at Sea organised a full day tour that included a number of highlights. Three of which were a visit to the Kopoko Hospital, lunch at the Rabaul Hotel, and a visit to the still active volcano of Tavurvur. The Nursing staff at Kopko Hospital were as warm and friendly as our colleagues in Alotau. They took great pleasure in showing us their facility and discussing health care delivery. The maternity unit was a delight with staff explaining how they assist with over 200 deliveries in a month in a very small unit.
The Rabaul Hotel served an excellent lunch and the bar was a source of much discussion with world war two bombs decorating the roof space. A Japanese bunker was in the back yard and the local ladies' group provided a fabulous cultural display that included singing and dancing. The final stop on this day was the live volcano and steaming ocean. The latest eruption occurred in 1994 and destroyed most of central Rabaul – the scene of devastation was difficult to take in as where there is now barren earth there once was a thriving community. Some local people have started to move back into central Rabaul but at their own risk as the government is sure that the volcano will erupt again.
Our next stop was Kiriwina Island which was a little paradise with an exceptional market if wood or weaving is of interest to you. Here we were fortunate to meet up with the local health worker Moses who is the only health worker on the island. He assists with everything from deliveries to trauma management in a clinic that was not greatly resourced. Again this visit led to much discussion on health care delivery models and the use of unregulated health care workers in remote locations.
Our last stop was the Conflict Islands which were magnificent – blue water, sandy beaches, a few shells, and a bar that looked like it just came out of Gilligan’s Island. Such peace and beauty was just the thing we needed after the business of our recent visits.
The conference on the way home was again education, enlightening, and thought provoking. Public health is the backbone of our health system and tropical medicine an area that we need to be aware of based on our proximity to our nearest neighbours and the issues surrounding both communicable and non-communicable diseases that we may encounter in our clinical practice.
All in all, this was an amazing experience.
Here are a few things, the attendees had to say
To experience first hand the contrast of primary health in PNG with our own system was truly eye opening and inspirational. The organization and presentations were more than what I expected and the vast knowledge and experience of the nurses on board will definitely enhance my own delivery of care in every situation in the future. - Helen R
[Having the conference on a cruise ship was] great as something different. Also, enables you to be able to bring the family along. Great meeting partners. - Debra
[The best thing about this cruise conference was the] Interesting content. Day tours. Ability to meet your peers from all over Australia. Relaxing holiday and study all in one. - Sharon