The Morehead Health Centre in South Fly District of Western Province will be getting a major facelift, thanks to a public private partnership arrangement (PPP) between PNG Sustainable Development Program Limited (SDP) and the Western Province Health Authority (WPHA).
This initiative is closely aligned to the National Health Plan to improve service delivery for rural communities.
The existing Morehead Health Centre has two standalone buildings. These buildings have deteriorated over the years due to a lack of maintenance and have also missed out on receiving regular drug supplies. What is currently there now cannot support an adequate Level 3 health service facility requirement, and that involves having an inpatient ward, first aid treatment room, outpatient care, and a labour ward or birthing house facility.
Some 12 months ago, SDP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the WPHA to help improve the situation by upgrading the facilities and providing some experienced health professionals to support the few dedicated staff left at the health centre.
It was not an easy task. But one that was necessary.
With good partnership relations, SDP worked with the WPHA to agree on the requirements; commissioned the basic design work; obtained approvals from the National Department of Health (NDoH); recruited a doctor and hospital administrator; and are now in the process of contracting the work.
However, all these have taken time and the community has continued to suffer. So, a few weeks ago, the SDP team swung into action with the Morehead health centre staff to make a difference.
They set out to work on cleaning and refurbishing another existing building, which is a separate standalone building to the health centre, turning it into a birthing house.
Work on that birthing house was completed in two weeks and welcomed its first birth soon after.
It has since had its second birth from a high-risk mother with 18 mothers booked for antenatal check-ups.
“The birthing house is very good for our womenfolk,” said Mobi Sam, the care-taker headmaster of Morehead High School.
“I am very happy with the current developments. Many teachers do not want to come to Morehead due to the lack of government services,” he said.
“One of the first things a teacher asks for is, what health services are provided in Morehead?” When the answer is unfavorable, the teachers don’t come.”
Mr Sam added that with the developments that SDP is bringing, he is expecting teachers and other government officers to want to go and work in Morehead.
Other community members have also come forward in support of this project that is taking place in Morehead.
Mary Dawi is a community health worker. This year marks her 29 years of employment in the community health space.
“I have been working with the Morehead Health Centre and have faced many challenges in providing adequate and safe health services to the people,” she said. “My work requires me to deliver babies out in the bush or in small huts built for pregnant women.”
Just last year, Ms Dawi had to deliver a first-time mother (primip) with a breech presentation where the baby died. With that experience in her memory, she is very happywith the refurbished birthing house. “The birthing house will now provide a space for mothers to have safe deliveries,” she said.
With the birthing house now complete and in operation, this closes out Phase 1, Stage 1 of the Morehead Health Centre project, bringing this project one step closer to being a full Level 3 health centre.
Phase 1, Stage 2 is set to start in May. This stage will cover the refurbishment of one of the two existing buildings at the health centre, and the renovation of a 2-bedroom duplex and three studio room apartments.
Phase 2 will start in the third quarter of this year with the refurbishment of the second existing building at the health centre, the construction of one new building to add to the existing two, nine new staff houses, and all service utilities (sewer, water and power).
Siwai Nema, a senior citizen from Morehead welcomes this project. He said they have not seen development taking place in quite a long while so this is wonderful news to him, adding: “the community is very happy. We will embrace and support this project.”
The Morehead Health Centre project will also extend to include the construction of classrooms and staff houses for SDP’s FODE Centre.