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In praise of a great doctor - and seed planter


LAE - The Jimi District in Jiwaka Province is one of the most remote areas in Papua New Guinea.

I have travelled to Middle and Upper Jimi on my way to Kompiam and experienced firsthand the struggles of access that the people of Jimi have when it comes to accessing primary medical services.

Jimi district represents the many rural and remote (some very isolated) places in PNG where accessing primary medical care is limited by poor road access.

This is where winding and narrow is the path to getting to see a doctor, places where the pastures of medical care are brown.

The PNG government has tried various approaches to solve this issue, but all seemed to be superficial, symptomatic and reactive.

So there needed to be a change of approach - a paradigm shift.

There needs to be a systemic approach that fosters a unity of influence, that ensures uniformity amongst diversity and a synergistic approach to bond vital parts for a better whole.

This would represent a shift from reactive to proactive.

If the people are unable to access a doctor, then let us enable the doctor to access the people.

God’s will to improve rural medical health in PNG was installed as a vision in Dr David Mills and his family.

With grit, guts, grind and most importantly God, the family relocated from Australia to the Kompiam District in Enga Province: from down under to a land out much further.

They came as missionaries, and visionaries, carrying seeds of change from God to transform rural medical service in PNG.

One seed was planted in the fertile soils of Kompiam Health Center.

Up sprouted the now blossoming tree of Kompiam District Hospital, which is one of the best rural hospitals in PNG.

A second seed was planted at Kompiam, where it now i blooms as Kompiam International School, providing quality education in a rural district. 

The next seed was planted at the University of PNG. It is a special seed, unique in the world and found only in PNG.

It germinated with struggle but was nurtured passionately until it bloomed into a specialist training program, which has yielded seven Master of Medicine graduates specialising in rural health.

As it has branched further, the Department of Rural and General Medicine took shape and is now an important department in the UPNG School of Medicine and Health Science.

Another seed was planted in PNG as the PNG Society for Rural and Remote Health, formed in 2008 as a collaboration between rurally placed doctors across PNG.

It too struggled to grow but did so eventually and is now a place for rural doctors to ‘feel at home’.

The Society is now working in conjunction with overseas partners to foster increased support for rural doctors in PNG.

These seeds are actually smart strategies to obtain, maintain and retain doctors in the rural areas.

We have a department that attracts medical students into rural medicine; a graduate level curriculum that keeps rural registrars in rural hospitals and a professional society that keeps rural doctors connected.

If we were a society of painters, we would paint a thousand pictures to speak 10,000 words of gratitude to the Mills family for their passion, dedication and perseverance in improving rural medical services.

They heeded the call of God and allowed the Holy Spirit to use them to initiate, influence and impact a paradigm shift. Rural medical services is a better version now.

Prosperity is when your life becomes a blessing and healing to others.

The Mills have lived a life of prosperity and we wish them more prosperous times ahead and abroad.

On behalf of a grateful Society, and a grateful nation.

Dr Hogande Kiafuli is President of the PNG Society for Rural and Remote Health.   Associate Professor David Mills of James Cook University in Queensland is also Director of Rural Health and Training at Kompiam District Hospital in the PNG Highlands


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