When the Minister for Health announced that he had engaged American consultants to assist in the planning of a new ‘super hospital’ for Port Moresby, called the Pacific Medical Centre (PMC), he argued that this high-tech hospital would meet the health needs of PNG.
This argument is incorrect and misleading. Diverting scarce health funds to this project could lead to the complete collapse of the struggling PNG hospital sector and a massive deterioration in health care capacity for ordinary Papua New Guineans.
Many citizens view health policy as too complex and technical to be publicly debated. Yet it is ordinary citizens who suffer the rundown status of rural and urban health facilities. Currently, some sixty percent of rural aid posts are closed and many health centres can no longer provide quality primary health care and emergency referral for complicated cases.
The public must take an active interest in this issue. This article refutes a range of claims that have been made about the PMC, in order to encourage debate and discussion:
- The PMC will not be built with donated American money. The Health Minister recently ordered that the facility be funded from the PNG health budget.
- The PMC will not be able to do all the things that a big city hospital in the USA or Australia can do, such as heart surgery, kidney transplants, and radiotherapy. None of these procedures will be available at the PMC.
- The PMC will look after rich people with similar medial conditions that are treated at Port Moresby General Hospital, but in more salubrious surroundings.
- The PMC will not pay for itself. The 150 inpatient beds in PMC will not be filled with fee-paying patients (at K4000 per day). For the PMC to be viable the government will have to heavily subsidise running costs, to the detriment of other health services.
- The PMC will not be useful for training. Training health workers in the PMC will not help them function usefully in PNG health centres and provincial hospitals.